Saskatchewan

Wildfire near La Ronge forces 685 to Alberta

More than 600 evacuees from La Ronge, Sask., were taken by bus to Cold Lake, Alta., Sunday, joining thousands of other people in central Saskatchewan who have been forced out of their homes by wildfires.

23 buses leave with town's residents; Canadian Forces to help fight fires, settle evacuees

Military called in to help move those threatened by fire 2:39

As of Sunday afternoon, 685 people from the La Ronge area in central Saskatchewan were sent by bus to Cold Lake, Alta., the latest wave of people forced from their homes by a raging wildfire.

An estimated 7,900 residents from La Ronge, Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band have now been evacuated under an order issued jointly by local leaders and the provincial government, which reported on Sunday the Egg fire had moved within five kilometres of the La Ronge town site.

The La Ronge area is approximately 430 kilometres north of Saskatoon. 
Lac La Ronge Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson talks about the general evacuation order issued to her community 5:57

In addition to Canadian Armed Forces personnel working in Cold Lake to help settle evacuees, 1,000 more are expected to arrive in Saskatchewan to help fight the La Ronge-area fires, government relations spokesman Duane McKay said. 

"They'll be completely self contained, and they will augment wildfire operations, so we'll see them on the fire line," he said. 

After the troops receive basic training, they're expected to arrive within 12 to 24 hours, McKay said.

Fire crews work under a pall of smoke in the La Ronge area on Saturday. (Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations)

Sunday's numbers

The 7,900 evacuees are in addition to the 5,600-plus evacuees receiving support from the provincial Ministry of Social Services.

Social services spokeswoman Karri Kemps said 5,698 evacuees have registered with the ministry and are receiving help from Red Cross. 

Kemps said that number would likely increase because many evacuees who had first opted to stay with family or friends are deciding to register for support at evacuation centres. 

Kemps provided the following evacuee counts for Sunday:

  • North Battleford — 385.
  • Prince Albert — 2,293.
  • Saskatoon — 1,179.
  • Regina — 1,221.

Arson in Hall Lake

Early Sunday, unofficial reports said six new fires in the tiny community of Hall Lake, about 100 kilometres west of Air Ronge, had been caused by acts of arson. 

By midday Sunday, environment ministry spokesman Steve Roberts confirmed the reports: All six fires had been deliberately set. Roberts said a helicopter and a ground crew have been dispatched to deal with the fires. The RCMP is investigating. 

"We had to evacuate everyone from the [Hall Lake] community. We sent three school buses and others left in private vehicles …," Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chef Tammy Cook-Searson said in a Facebook post. 

"Only essential service people left in Hall Lake."

Cities, towns send firefighters 

By midmorning on Sunday, the City of Saskatoon announced it had sent seven firefighters, a fire engine and a water truck to help fight blazes in the town of La Ronge.  

"The request for additional logistical support and the need to protect structures within the community's industrial area came from the province's Emergency Management and Fire Safety on Saturday, July 4," said a statement from the city. 

The Saskatoon Fire Department said it might send more staff on a rotational basis, as long it has enough coverage within Saskatoon. The city is also offering two more water trucks if required.

The Saskatoon crew was joined by firefighters from Prince Albert, Warman, the Rural Municipality of Buckland, Humboldt and the Muskoday First Nation, the province reported. 

The Egg fire sears a peninsula jutting into Lac La Ronge on Friday. (Submitted by Scott Knudsen, Northscape Photography )

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