There is “no relief coming in the immediate future” for northern communities affected by forest fires, the provincial government says. “It’s fairly obvious we’re in a significant forest fire season. We’ve been days into and we have days to come,” said Colin King, deputy commissioner of the province’s emergency management and fire safety branch.
As of Sunday morning, the number of active fires in the province was 121, including 52 larger than 100 hectares. These are expected to grow and move as hot, dry conditions persist.
The province is recommending against non-essential travel north of Prince Albert and Highway 2 north was closed at Weyakwin Junction, about 100 kilometres southwest of La Ronge, shortly before noon on Sunday.
The communities of Weyakwin and Ramsey Bay, on Highway 2 south of La Ronge, were evacuated late Saturday, just days after people in Nemeiben Lake, Wadin Bay, Sucker River and English Bay were asked to leave their homes.
Heavy smoke throughout the north has led many to voluntarily leave other communities. Social services said it is assisting people from communities near La Ronge – including Timber Bay and Montreal Lake – and near La Loche, where fires in northern Alberta are contributing to smoky conditions.
The number of evacuees staying in Saskatoon, North Battleford and Prince Albert is fluid, says provincial social services. By Sunday morning, 317 people were staying in Saskatoon, with more expected to arrive later in the day.
Most are at the congregate facility set up at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre by Lawson Heights Mall. The soccer centre opened its doors to evacuees from Sikachu and Clam Crossing, both west of La Ronge, earlier this month. Those individuals began returning home Friday.
Three campgrounds in Lac La Ronge Provincial Park – Nemeiben Lake, MacKay Lake and Wadin Bay – have been closed until further notice. Other campgrounds in the area remain open, but are “heavily affected” by smoke and travel there is not recommended.
“The quality of experience that we’re anticipating that people want won’t be experienced,” said Bob Wilson, acting director of northern parks.
Canada Day fireworks planned for campgrounds in Saskatchewan’s north will be postponed, he said. More than 500 people are directly fighting the fires in the north. Additional fire- fighting equipment, including air tankers, have come from as far as Newfoundland. Those on the front line expected to receive a thermal image mapping aircraft from Ontario late Sunday that would allow them to map the fires’ movement overnight so firefighters could have the information they needed to more effectively fight the fires.
No one has been injured as a result of the fires and no reports of infrastructure damage have been confirmed by the province yet.