By Glenn Hicks, paNOW
The wildfire burning near the northern community of Southend which has forced hundreds to flee their homes has quickly grown and now covers 3,000 hectares — 30 square kilometres.
The blaze, labelled the “Woods’ wildfire”, is currently 13 kilometres away from the community at the south end of Reindeer Lake, which is roughly 450 km northeast of Prince Albert.
The leaders of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation ordered a general evacuation Tuesday after the fire was first reported Monday afternoon.
More than 700 people evacuated the area by Wednesday morning.
Scott Wasylenchuk, with the Ministry of the Environment, said the blaze broke out in a very remote area with a lot of uninterrupted forest surrounding it.
“There are no roads to access the fire and it’s in terrain with cliffs and valleys and no fuel breaks between the fire and the community of Southend itself,” he said. “That’s why it’s a concern to us at this time.”
Ray Unrau with the provincial wildfire management said while there was no immediate threat, a change in weather and fire conditions could expose the community to the blaze.
“If the fire continues to grow, that is one of the possibilities,” he said.
Unrau said multiple helicopters and air tankers were being deployed as needed. An incident management team is expected to be set up nearby by Wednesday evening.
Dianna Valentine, with Emergency Social Services, said that roughly 42 people were sent by bus to Saskatoon to stay at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre, with the bulk of evacuees headed to Prince Albert.
Of the roughly 600 people sent to Prince Albert, 163 went by bus and about 400 left in private vehicles. Roughly 160 others stayed much closer to home by going by boat to camps at Reindeer Lake.
— With files from 650 CKOM’s Keenan Sorokan