June 30, 2008

More Than 200 Flee Forest Fire in Northern Saskatchewan


STONY RAPIDS, Sask. - A fast-moving forest fire fuelled by hot, dry winds was bearing down on two remote communities in northern Saskatchewan, forcing more than 200 people to flee their homes.

RCMP Sgt. Carole Raymond said as of Sunday evening, the fire was less than three kilometres from Stony Rapids and Stony Lake.

Prisoners from the local RCMP detachment and most of the elderly and those with health problems have been flown out, Raymond said.

Another 100 people were to be flown out later Sunday night.

RCMP started going door-to-door about 1:30 p.m. to tell residents to gather their pets and belongings when the fire was just six kilometres east of town.

Police were asking people to voluntarily leave and drive to Black Lake, about 90 minutes southeast.

Judy Orthner, director of communications for the Ministry of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, said 200 people were being flown to Prince Albert, Sask., and will be housed at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology campus.

"It's a large campus and there will be dormitory space there because fortunately all the students are home for summer vacation," Orthner said.

She said there will be medical assessments done on people and they will transported to medical facilities if

Val Nicholson, communications consultant with the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment, said firefighters and water tankers from the Northwest Territories came Sunday to help out.

Fire crews were also using foam and retardant at the west side of the Stony Rapids to try to stop the fire's progress.

However, hot, dry weather isn't helping.

"They had no precipitation to speak of for some time and temperatures are quite high and we're dealing with a pretty strong sustained wind from the west, all of which are making it pretty difficult.

"The conditions are pretty challenging."

Fire crews were also setting up sprinklers on homes and buildings and using heavy equipment to cut fire lines to try to save the communities, Nicholson said.

"We're all hoping."