Troops ready to help battle northern Sask. wildfires

Wildfires continue to threaten the homes of thousands in northern Saskatchewan and crews battling the blazes will be getting some much needed help on Wednesday. After a day’s worth of intensive training, some 360 soldiers from Edmonton will hit the ground and start helping fight the wildfires threatening northern Saskatchewan communities.

Government officials said those troops will be on the ground in the Weyakwin/Montreal Lake area along with the La Ronge area, and are calling today an important day for crews battling the fires as favourable winds are clearing the skies.

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“We’re going to head up north and head straight to the fire line right now,” Pte. Lance Matsos told Global News Wednesday morning.

“Get up north and make sure we can take care of some of the hot spots with crews that are up there already. At the end of the day, find a campsite and do it all over again tomorrow.”

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Officials say seven new fires were reported in the last 24 hours and there are currently 113 active fires in the province.

One of the largest blazes came within 1.5 kilometres of La Ronge, a town of 2,700 residents. Thomas Sierzycki, the mayor of the community, said crews continue to “work hard to hold the fire line from the air and ground” and good progress was made to hold fire lines.

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Officials say the “Egg” fire threatening La Ronge, Wadin Bay, Nemeiben Lake, Sucker River, English Bay and Highway 102 is stable with water bombers, bucketing and dozer work on-going.

The “Senyk” fire is two kilometers west of Pinehouse with helicopters and crews fighting that blaze, while 13 ground crews with trucks, four cats and three helicopters fighting the “Mack” fire that is five kilomtres east of La Loche.

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Steve Roberts with Saskatchewan Wildfire Management says the same training offered to the military will also be offered to other groups, such as First Nations that want to join the firefighting effort. He added other Saskatchewan residents with previous training have also volunteered and they will be added to the 600 firefighters who have been working in the north for nearly two weeks.

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Fires as well as thick smoke have forced an estimated 9,000 people from their homes in more than 50 communities.

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About a dozen homes, remote cabins and other structures have been destroyed.

Nearly four thousand square kilometres have burned in high-priority fire zones – more than 10 times the annual average.

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Smoke from the wildfires continues to blanket parts of northern and east-central Saskatchewan. Officials with Environment Canada say a southwesterly flow on Wednesday will spread smoke back over the northern regions.

Westerly winds are expected to begin to clear smoke from east-central Saskatchewan Wednesday evening and in the northwestern part of the province after midnight.

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With files from The Canadian Press


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