One of the province’s largest firefighting airplanes, the Convair 580-A. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The timeline for completion of all hangar upgrades is March 2020, not June 2018 as originally reported. The Ministry of Environment initially told MBC “the apron work, and hangar/tanker base improvements in La Ronge are set to be complete by June of 2018” but later clarified that timeline only applies to a portion of the work.

Construction isn’t expected to come to a close until March of 2020 for an airport space in La Ronge that houses some of the province’s most important firefighting equipment.

On Friday, in addition to making other announcements, Environment Minister Scott Moe said $14 million will be poured into work that modernizes the hangar and protects firefighting assets, with $3.5 million of that coming in the province’s 2017-18 budget.

The expected 2020 completion date for the major upgrades at the provincial hangar, which is owned by Central Services and leased out by wildfire management, comes after a significant setback in December when a fire ripped through the building and caused over $1 million in damages. The fixes required after the fire were covered by insurance, said Steve Roberts with Wildfire Management, and are expected to be complete by mid-August.

After the flames were put out by local firefighters who worked in frigid winter temperatures, there was fire and water damage but the structure itself and equipment within remained intact. The fire originated from an area where the roof repairs were already underway, firefighters told MBC at the time.

The Dec. 6 hangar fire. Photo courtesy Ministry of Central Services.

Now, officials say the La Ronge Tanker Base apron and Hangar apron surface rehabilitation work will be completed by June 2018.

The final piece of the work will be improvements to and expansion of the hangar, which Steve Roberts says includes installing a new fire suppression system that will further protect the province’s firefighting equipment, as well as replacing the hangar doors and expanding the building by 30 feet. That deadline is March of 2020.

Minister Scott Moe said the infrastructure improvements, both to the hangar and to the apron where planes are stationed outside the hangar, will “better support our fleet’s operation and to better support out efforts.”

He said the enhancements “improve our ability to keep Saskatchewan people, Saskatchewan communities, and Saskatchewan infrastructure safe from wildfire threats.”

Wildfire management’s firefighters train out of the La Ronge hangar, and during the wildfire season the La Ronge base is crucial to the province’s firefighting efforts.

The tender for this work went out in July of 2016.