Fires continue to threaten Saskatchewan communities, thousands evacuated

Many hoping rain will aid in fire battle

(Sprinklers have been set up on houses in Sucker River to protect them from encroaching fire. APTN/Photo)

Jaydon Flett
APTN National News
SUCKER RIVER, SASK.–Ongoing battles with wildfires in northern Saskatchewan have forced over 5,000 people to be displaced from their homes.

Although crews have been managing to keep the fires out of communities, flames came dangerously close to the Montreal Lake Cree Nation on Thursday afternoon.

Chief Edward Henderson said Thursday that the area was unsafe and the RCMP reported flames reached within a few kilometers of the community.

Workers just outside Montreal Lake were busy repairing a power line that had been struck down by unstable trees, causing a blackout in the community. Water bombers were also seen battling the flames from above to protect homes there from getting engulfed by the spreading fire.

In La Ronge, north of Montreal Lake, heavy smoked forced the shut-down of the highway as a result of low visibility. A thick blanket of smoke is the primary reason why over four-dozen communities have been partially or completely evacuated.

In Sucker River, a community that had been evacuated last week, a small group of volunteers remained behind in hopes of being able to protect the community.

Volunteers of all ages were busy cutting down trees, patrolling the streets and even feeding the dogs left behind, said Elder Miles Ratt.

Ratt said staying in the smoke-filled community was a scary experience, but it’s important for volunteers to protect the houses from flames and from outsiders. He said there have been a couple of break-ins at the homes of evacuees and volunteers are doing all they can to save the community.

“They cut all these trees down, because they were thick here. That’s where the fire likes to travel fast,” he said, walking through the quiet, abandoned community, pointing out the make-shift sprinkler system attached to almost every roof.

Most of the homes are being doused around the clock by water pumped out of a nearby bog.

Despite that, Ratt said he is hoping for some rain.

“It’s very hard to predict,” he says. “We need rain. That’s what we need, is rain. But so far, no luck yet. The weatherman is not cooperating.”

With blue and partially smoky skies covering most of the province, it looks like there could be some time before the crews, or the weather, manage to get the fires under control.

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