Forest fire crews are battling a 3,000 hectare blaze south of the northern Saskatchewan community of Southend.
The fire was first reported on Monday, forcing the mandatory evacuation of residents on Tuesday, as the blaze is now approximately only 13 kilometres away from the community.
Ray Unrau, with Saskatchewan government relations, says the evacuation was also prompted by road access concerns into the community.
“That was one of the reasons,” he says. “There’s always the potential for the fire to change direction to affect both the community and road access.”
Officials say the fire is difficult to get at, as it is in a remote area with no road access. The government says ground crews, helicopters and air tankers are battling the blaze.
Unrau says there are no concerns at this time that the fire could reach Southend.
“Currently, there is no thought of that. If weather conditions change and if the fire continues to grow, that is one of the possibilities.”
Crews are battling another blaze near Montreal Lake, but officials say good progress is being made on that 250 hectare fire, as containment lines are being established.
Southend evacuees were flowing into Prince Albert Wednesday morning.
About 200 people had registered at a temporary shelter at the Prince Albert Inn by 10:30 a.m.
Wilson Jobb says community members boarded a bus around 1 a.m. and drove through the night to reach the city.
“We had like four or five hours to get ready, and I had to pack all of my stuff up and lock up the house and stuff like that,” he says.
Pauline Clarke is a radio broadcaster in Southend. She says the decision to issue a mandatory evacuation was made quickly.
“So, it went from a general evacuation to a mandatory evacuation in a span of 15 minutes,” she says.
Another group of evacuees has been sent to the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon.
Both the Prince Albert Grand Council and Red Cross are assisting with the evacuation effort.
Chris Clemett, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Red Cross, says a third group of about 60 evacuees from Southend left by boat to the northern community of Kinasao.
Clemett says by early Wednesday morning, about 34 evacuees had registered in Saskatoon.
(PHOTO: Members of the Red Cross register Southend evacuees at the Prince Albert Inn. Photo by Fraser Needham.)
With files from Fraser Needham