Heavy smoke due to wildfires force evacuations

The immediate threat to northern communities from new wildfires that sprung up in tinder dry forest in the La Ronge areas seems to have cooled somewhat overnight.

Saskatchewan government officials say 140 people in Clear Water staying with friends

The immediate threat to northern communities from new wildfires that sprung up in the tinder dry forest in the La Ronge areas seems to have cooled somewhat overnight.

Though the smoke is still too thick for water bombers, helicopters are being sent in to combat the flames, officials said.

One third of the 49 new fires in the areas north of La Ronge have been contained. Currently, about 20 high risk fires are still being tended to.

 "I was scared," said Rayshell Charles. "I was really scared and I was panicking."

Charles and her two children were forced to evacuate their La Ronge home in the middle of the night. 

"The whole town was just all orange and there's ashes falling from the sky, burnt leaves, burnt pieces of wood falling from the sky," Charles said. "It was like a scene from a movie or something."

The Chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band posted on Facebook that the "Sucker Fire" was not a threat to the community overnight. Over the weekend, a local state of emergency was declared and some people considered health priorities were moved to Prince Albert, as a precaution.

"[Wild Fire Management] gave us an update today [saying] that we're sorry to inform that one family has lost their home and a shed," Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said.   

The chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band posted this photo on her Facebook page overnight. (Facebook)

Heavy smoke and fire threats in the areas of Sikachu, Hall Lake and Clam Crossing have caused community members to leave the area.

The poor air quality has caused over 700 others to evacuate as well. Most have gone to stay with family and friends in southern cities, such as Prince Albert and Saskatoon.

 "There are also some cabins and trapper cabins that have been lost in the fire so far, but it is continuing to burn and they are continuing to monitor them," Cook-Searson said.

So far, there have been about six or seven remote structures that have been impacted by the wildfires in the region. Some of these structures were cabins out in Nemeiben Lake.

"I feel so bad for those people," said Vicky Marinuk. "I can't even imagine losing a cabin where there's so much treasures that have been there for years."

Three of Marinuk's neighbours lost their cabins to the wildfires.

A wildfire burns in the distance near Nemebian Lake in northern Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Vicky Marinuk)

"We do have rapid response teams working directly with the community and valued protection and supporting their emergency operation center," said Duane McKay, commissioner of fire safety. "Government relations is sending additional resources to work with communities and their emergency coordinators."

According to government officials, the number of wildfires in Saskatchewan have almost doubled to 330 since last year due to the drier weather. 

"Even though we get a little precipitation, the fuel itself, the trees, the grass and even the duff layers are dry, dry, dry, so the fires dig in," said Steve Roberts of Wildfire Management. "They get going fast and a little bit of wind make them go really fast."

Environment Canada's forecast today may bring new lightning strikes to the north. There is a chance of showers and risk of thunderstorm for most areas.The forecast also warns of local smoke for places including La Ronge, La Loche as well as Uranium City.

Read tweets below from this morning's teleconference update from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations. 


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