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SPSA says cold temperatures, reduced wind helping crews extinguish fires in northern Sask.

The Cloverdale wildfire burns northeast of Prince Albert. File photo / Global News

Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) said extremely cold temperatures are helping extinguish what is left of the wildfires in northern Saskatchewan.

Vice-president of operations Steve Roberts said there is snow on two of the wildfires. There are currently three active fires, Cloverdale being the largest and then the Division fire in the Fort à la Corne area and McBride fire south of Hudson Bay.

Read more: Cloverdale wildfire north of Prince Albert, Sask. contained

“The cold temperatures and reduced winds are significantly helping firefighters on the ground getting a hold of and doing extinguishment on these large fires,” Roberts told reporters Friday.

The Cloverdale fire remains contained at 5,583 hectares. The Division fire is not yet contained and spans 1,489 hectares.

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Both ground and air support crews are working Friday to contain both of those fires.

Public safety personnel and fire crews are continuing with fire suppression efforts in the area.

On Thursday, evacuees were allowed to return home and Highway 55 was reopened with a speed restriction due to working crews in the area.

SPSA director of emergency and crisis support Joan Hrycyk said there were 17 evacuees in hotels Thursday, and eight remaining who will be headed home Friday morning. Hrycyk said in total there were 59 people registered at the hotel between May 17 and 20 who were provided shelter and food.

Crews will continue to work throughout the weekend making headway on the fire, including areas that are still producing smoke.

Click to play video: 'Prince Albert National Park businesses impacted by Cloverdale wildfire' Prince Albert National Park businesses impacted by Cloverdale wildfire
Prince Albert National Park businesses impacted by Cloverdale wildfire – May 21, 2021

Roberts explained that the bulk of the fire activity producing smoke is sawdust piles from industrial activities, such as mills in the area.

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“Those actually have to be pulled apart with equipment and those sawdust remnants that are on fire have to be watered with water tank trucks and crews so that will take a little longer.”

Roberts said a contractor will be coming out either Friday or Saturday evening to complete thermal scanning of the area from the air.

Thermal scanning is best completed at night and identifies hot spots where there is fire that still needs to be tended to, but no smoke being produced.

Repairs have also been completed on SaskPower’s main transmission line in the area and service has been restored to most customers.

Shortly after 9 p.m. on Thursday, service for the communities of Stanley Mission and Grandmother’s Bay went back offline after the line was re-energized.

Joel Cherry, SaskPower spokesperson explained that many people in those communities rely on electric heat and with cold temperatures, the system may have been overwhelmed right after it was restored.

Cherry said power was restored between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. in those communities.

Read more: Recent power outages create challenges for businesses in Prince Albert National Park

“That sort of cleanup work is pretty common after a large transmission outage. When you have one line serving a large geographic area like that, we don’t necessarily know what sort of issues are on the distribution system until the transmission issue is fixed,” Cherry explained.

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Cherry is confident that the transmission line will be able to accommodate customers over the weekend, especially the influx of those travelling up to their cabins for the long weekend.

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