Fires Prompt Further Evacuations In Sandy Bay

Thursday, July 03, 2008 at 15:10



Fire officials expect it to be another trying day for crews battling blazes in northern Saskatchewan.


Scott Wasylenchuk with Saskatchewan Environment says approaching storm systems could change wind direction on several fronts and give crews one more thing to worry about.


He also says six new fires sprang up today alone.


Provincial fire management director Steve Roberts says the fire close to Deschambault Lake is about a kilometre away, but is not a direct threat because it’s across the lake.


Roberts says fire officials monitoring the blaze situated between Sandy Bay and Pelican Narrows are keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, because a wind shift could easily push that fire toward either community.


Wasylenchuk says some progress is being made with the Camsell fire near Uranium City.


Light showers this morning doused the fire’s progress and allowed crews to attack the fire directly.


Fire crews have also halted the progress of the Ritchie fire near Black Lake and Stony Rapids to 1 kilometre west of the Black Lake road.


Bulldozers have begun to widen some trails and secondary roads to further impede its progress, and sprinkler systems have been set up.


Residents of Stony Rapids and Black Lake are still without phone service.


However, government officials say essential services personnel like health workers and RCMP officers are able to communicate using satellite phones and other means.


Meantime, another wave of evacuations is expected in Sandy Bay today.


Kathy Bulyck of Emergency Support Services says four buses will take out as many as 160 people who are experiencing problems with the smoke.


That is on top of the roughly 2,000 northerners who have already been evacuated to centres in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.


Fire crews say the Mirond fire is 87,000 hectares in size.


Ground crews, helicopters and airtankers continue to battle the blaze at its southern flank.


Over near Deschambault Lake, crews have performed a back-burn near the community to rob the fire of its fuel supply.


The Hopper fire is approximately 22,000 hectares in size and is still out of control.


Richard Kent of the Prince Albert Grand Council confirms power was cut off to the community, but they are taking steps to fix it.


Despite the tumultuous conditions, the authorities still say no communities are directly threatened by the fires.


They also hope rain from the expected storms will douse some of the flames.


It is not clear when any of the evacuees will be allowed to return home.


Saskatoon has become a temporary home for many of them.


Brenna McDonald and her three children from Sandy Bay are staying at the university.


She says she wanted to get out of her community because her youngest had begun coughing a lot.


While McDonald is glad to be out of the smoke, she is anxious to get back to her home and her dog.


McDonald has family in Saskatoon, so she’s not worried if she has to stay a long time.


With evacuees from the north now scattered across the province, the Canadian Red Cross is looking to re-open the lines of communication.


Volunteers and staff in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina have registered hundreds of people from the evacuated communities so family members who lost touch during the chaos can re-connect.


Public Affairs Coordinator Jen Pederson says if anyone is looking for a family member, they can call 1-888-953-FIND.


Pederson says only people who were sent to evacuation sites will be in their records.


If any resident was already out of the community when evacuations took place, they can head to SIAST in Prince Albert, the Soccer Centre in Saskatoon, or the University of Regina in the Queen City to register.