About 1,000 members of the Canadian military are now lending a hand to fight Saskatchewan fires.
Master Cpl. Joel Sutherland, from Alberta, said the soldiers in the north will be taking direction from trained firefighters.
“More or less, use our manpower to quickly cordon off the fires,” he said. Military will be putting in fire guards, removing fuel to prevent flair-ups and crossing of fire lines, and securing fire edges.
One of the primary concerns will be dealing with the Egg fire burning near La Ronge. As of Wednesday, there were 113 active fires burning in Saskatchewan, seven of which were new in the past 24 hours. Most the fires have been caused by lightning strikes and the provincial fire ban has helped avoid human-caused fires.
The province said there have been no changes to the fires of concern the weather is cooperating to allow for good flying to contain small fires.
One of the first things Master Cpl. Sutherland did when he got to Saskatchewan was look at a fire map of the province.
“It was pretty shocking, to be honest. It’s just incredible the amount of fires and stuff.”
Master Cpl. Sutherland is still unclear how long he will be fighting fires in Saskatchewan. A large contingent of military is expected to hit the ground on Wednesday. About 600 people are already on the front lines with 360 additional troops deployed to Weyakwin, Montreal Lake and La Ronge areas.
Looking for volunteers
Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson has been out a call for 250 volunteer firefighters. The government is supporting her response, noting the military will not be able to stay in Saskatchewan forever and volunteers will be needed.
Requirements for volunteers:
– Blood pressure test
– Fitness test, which includes walking 1.6 kilomtres in less than 16 minutes
Wild land training, boots, coveralls, gloves and basic protective gear will be provided. Cook-Searson said the priority is to employ as many local people with knowledge, skills and firefighting experience as possible.
Interested volunteers can contact email@example.com.
Evacuees remain displaced
Social services are providing support for 7,868 evacuees, a number that fluctuates as some people leave to stay with family and others arrive at evacuation centres. There 3,154 evacuees in Prince Albert, 2,781 in Saskatoon, 858 in Regina, 400 in North Battleford and 675 in Cold Lake.
Deschambault Lake has been added to the evacuation list. The community is only under a partial evacuation for people with health concerns.
Sask Parks has offered free camping for evacuees, with proof.
Criteria for evacuees to be allowed back home:
– No fire threat
– Smoke is not a health risk
– Safe water
– Medical staff available
– Essential services, such as phone and power, available
Power was restored to Pinehouse Tuesday night after the community was without service when flames took down three kilometres worth of power poles.
Crews make progress
Firefighters are seeing progress at the Egg fire near La Ronge after using the largest firefighting helicopter in North America.
– 32 fires are larger than 10 square kilometres (just bigger than the size of the University of Saskatchewan)
– 11 fires are larger than 100 square kilometres (just smaller than the size of Regina)
– 3 fires are larger than 1,000 square kilometres (just smaller than the size of New York City)
If the weather holds on Wednesday, crews are hoping to make more progress because the visibility is better for air tankers.
The province still has help from firefighters from Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and South Dakota. Despite the help, the province said resources are stretched because of wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta and is actively looking for more crews from the U.S. to aid.
More than 60 communities have offered to help with firefighting by sending people or equipment. Those communities that are offering help are screened to make sure the resources taken away won’t put that community at risk. People across the province have offered equipment such as tankers and buses.
Saskatchewan has had 592 fires so far this year. At this time last year, the province had 213.
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