Wildfire forces evacuation of southwestern Saskatchewan communities
Evacuation orders have been issued for towns of Leader, Burstall and Liebenthal
A wildfire fueled by high winds has forced the evacuation of several communities in southwest Saskatchewan.
The town of Leader, roughly 85 kilometres southwest of Kindersley, Sask., is among the communities being evacuated from the southwestern area of the province due to a fire burning near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. The town of more than 800 residents has declared a local state of emergency.
Leader residents are being asked to evacuate to Kindersley.
Residents of the nearby communities of Burstall and Liebenthal are also being asked to leave their homes. Burstall residents have reportedly evacuated to either Kindersley, to the north, or Fox Valley, to the south, according to a Saskatchewan provincial government spokesperson.
Jackie Penny, who farms north of Burstall, said she was driving toward the town to help fight the fire when she was forced to turn around.
"It just enveloped the sun. You couldn't even see the sun in some spots, and there were leaves flying and tumbleweeds. It was crazy," she said. "I've never seen anything like that in my life."
Highway 21 has been closed due to the fire threat.
According to the province of Saskatchewan, a rapid response team has been dispatched to assist local fire departments with fighting the fire and evacuating the area.
The area is currently under a wind warning, with gusts of 90 to 100 km/h expected into Tuesday night, according to Environment Canada.
SaskEnergy has above-ground facilities in the Burstall area and is sending technicians to see if they are at risk from the fire, according to a Saskatchewan provincial government spokesperson.
The Crown corporation's South Bayhurst station west of the community is being monitored by an operator, she said.
SaskEnergy's regional office in Swift Current is also sending technicians to the region to check on the facilities.
Burstall's deputy mayor David Pidlisny said there was heavy smoke on the south side of the town when he spoke to CBC News early Tuesday afternoon.
At the time, it was not yet encroaching on the town.
"But it is moving rapidly and it's unknown whether it will reach the town or bypass the town," he said. "It depends on wind direction."
With files from Stefani Langenegger and Alex Soloducha