A provincial official says in spite of the fact a fire has been raging near the northern community of Fond du Lac for over a month and is growing in size, the government does not have a “let it burn” policy.
The Helmer fire, which is burning on the south side of Lake Athabasca, is now 21,000 hectares in size and 21 kilometres long and 14 kilometres wide at some points.
Nevertheless, Scott Wasylenchuk, the provincial fire centre manager with Saskatchewan Environment, says the province is utilizing resources as best it can to put out the blaze.
“No, we don’t have a ‘let it burn’ policy,” he says. “We protect values to the best of our abilities and we continue to do that right across the province.”
Local resident Napoleon Mecredi, who is a former chief of the Fond du Lac Dene Nation, is not so convinced.
He says the Helmer fire continues to rage out of control putting the community in imminent danger and he can’t understand why the province isn’t putting more resources toward putting it out.
“It’s burning within probably no more than three or four kilometres from the community and if the wind ever changes and the fire was to jump across the lake here, then Fond du Lac would be in danger,” he says. “I just don’t know why our leaders and stuff like that are not pushing the government. I don’t know with that ‘let it burn’ policy and stuff.”
Wasylenchuk adds the province does not believe the fire poses any immediate risk of danger to local residents because of the current wind directions.
Fond du Lac residents were recently evacuated because of smoke concerns from the blaze but returned home at the end of last week.