They were told it was a controlled burn, but people living in Eastern Beaver Creek quickly found out it wasn’t.
A fire sparked on Dundurn detachment’s firing range and closed in on the hamlet on Saturday night.
“We were woken up at 1:30 a.m. by the neighbours saying, ‘You know you need to get your horses ready, you might want to get them on the trailer and get ready to go with them,’” said Elise Ruiters, who was spending the night at her parents’ in the area.
“We went to check and you could see flames along the field there within a quarter of a kilometre in some places from the fence line.”
Debbie Callaway, who has lived in the area for 20 years, was one of the concerned neighbours.
She told 650 CKOM it was very smoky in the area at the time, and people were worried about the fire and poor air quality.
“We banged on their doors, we made sure everyone knew what was happening,” Callaway said.
While this wasn’t her first encounter with fires that started on the Canadian Forces detachment, she said this one was the largest – and closest.
“We were being told it was a controlled burn, but there’s no way it was a controlled burn when it got that far.”
According to Callaway, there was no fire response at the scene for at least an hour. She said one neighbour was watering his yard to keep the fire at bay.
“We should have had better communications with the military. They should have let us know exactly how close things were, what they were doing.”
‘At no time was there any danger’
In an email Monday, the Department of National Defence told 650 CKOM the fire was never a threat.
“At no time was there any danger to the surrounding community. The fire breaks at the range worked as they were supposed to and contained the fire.”
The DND noted Dundurn detachment has a fully staffed fire department and special range trucks on site that responded to the blaze.
“Because of the high wind conditions and heavy smoke, contact was made with emergency measures fire services who were on stand-by,” the statement notes, saying fire crews from the Town of Dundurn and Saskatoon were advised.
“We were called to help protect the homes in the Beaver Creek area that were impacted by the grass fire,” said Brent Hart, a battalion chief with the Saskatoon Fire Department. “We sent out two brush fire trucks and two tankers units to assist with that fire.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said there was not a large or unexpected increase in Emergency Department visits related to air quality issues over the weekend.
The health authority noted people with pre-existing lung problems, such as asthma or COPD, can be irritated by smoke. Due to that, they typically see a handful of patients with lung-related concerns in times of poor air quality.
– With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Vandenbreekel.