'We're very lucky that we never lost a home,' chief says after Red Pheasant fire
Flames reached up 20 feet after fire councillor says started with burning garbage
The fire that threatened Saskatchewan's Red Pheasant First Nation was under control as of Wednesday, according to the Saskatchewan government.
"There's no further threat," said Ray Unrau, a government spokesperson.
When Nathan Arias, who was returning to Red Pheasant from a school fundraiser in North Battleford, reached the community on Tuesday, it looked to him like the whole First Nation was burning.
"It looked massive," he said of the fire that threatened his community. "It was a sight to see."
Unrau acknowledged the now-extinguished fire was "rather significant."
Red Pheasant First Nation was one of several communities that battled wildfires Tuesday, as high wind fuelled blazes across Western Canada. Evacuation orders were issued for the towns of Leader, Burstall and Liebenthal.
When Arias got back to the reserve around 6:30 p.m. CST, the fire was threatening his uncle's house, he said.
"We were all kind of hustling around, trying to get stuff out of his house and the wind started picking up."
To protect his uncle's home, they sprayed it down with a water hose, he said, adding that fire crews tackled the blaze itself.
Despite the strong wind, the whole reserve came together and was able to subdue the fire, he said, noting that no one was hurt.
Help from neighbours
Red Pheasant Chief Clinton Wuttunee said that neighbouring Mosquito First Nation sent a fire truck to assist, and another fire truck was dispatched to the area by the provincial government.
"We're very lucky that we never lost a home," Wuttunee said. "It was basically bush and prairie fire."
The chief said the fire was heading toward some homes on the north side of the reserve, but a shift in the wind and some welcome rain prevented any structures from catching fire.
Red Pheasant Coun. Shawn Wuttunee said about 20 people helped fight the fire. He said it started with a community member burning garbage.
"Why burn garbage on a frickin' windy day?" he said.
Coun. Wuttunee estimates the flames reached about 20 feet, or six metres, into the air at one point.
"It was intense," the councillor said. "I never felt that feeling before, wind and fire at the same time. It was a pretty close call."
Coun. Wuttunee estimates it was about three hours before the fire was finally brought under control.
The chief said a representative from the provincial government is slated to visit the First Nation Wednesday to assess the situation.
With files from Radio-Canada's Omayra Issa