Watch the video above: Province warns of forest fire dangers
SASKATOON – Stanley Mission First Nation has decided to evacuate 240 people as a forest fire rages near the community. The fire began on Wednesday and is still not contained, according to Scott Wasylenchuk, the provincial fire centre manager.
The province says the threat to the community is minimal but the smoke from the 500 hectare fire prompted a partial evacuation.
About 140 people including those with asthma and other health conditions are staying in hotels in La Ronge, Sask.
The remainder arrived at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon late Thursday evening. Among them is Chantelle McLeod who’s 20 weeks pregnant.
“I’m kind of worried about my family because they got left behind and I’m the only one who got sent out,” said McLeod.
About 70 people; mainly mothers, children and expectant mothers are staying at the centre, having been removed from the First Nation located some 460 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
“There were large flames when we left,” said McLeod.
The Canadian Red Cross has been called in to look after the evacuees.
“We have cots, a sleeping area, we have food, we have personal services for things like toothbrushes and toothpaste and things they may not have come with,” Deanna Down, emergency response team lead.
The Red Cross is also planning activities for the evacuees to keep them occupied while they wait to return home. Attempting to beat the heat, the group will be swimming Friday afternoon and plans to go to Wanuskewin Heritage Park this weekend.
The provincial fire centre is fighting the blaze with helicopters, air tankers and ground crews. The centre calls the blaze volatile and weather dependent at this point.
Officials believe the fire was started by people, something McLeod confirms.
“Four little kids, they went and skipped school and started a fire,” she said.
“The vast majority of our fires are human caused and if they’re human caused, they’re preventable,” said Wasylenchuk.
Conditions this spring are considered on par, according to Wasylenchuk, but caution is urged considering most of the province is ranked as high for fire hazards.
The Saskatchewan ministry of environment has doused 120 fires to date this season and the Saskatoon Fire Department is averaging one grass fire a day since mid-April.
“This time of year when people want to enjoy the outdoors and have a backyard fire, it’s important to be aware of the weather conditions,” warns Morgan Hackl, assistant fire chief.
“If it is very dry or there are high winds, we would suggest that you don’t have a fire.”
According to McLeod, it’s a message that shouldn’t be taken lightly as she tensely waits at the soccer centre, anxious for the call to return home.