Wildfire near Prince Albert contained; no homes destroyed: public safety agency

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PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency says a fast-moving wildfire that has been burning in the Prince Albert area since Monday has been contained.

Steve Roberts, the agency's vice-president of operations, says cooler weather has helped get the fire under control and will continue to help crews on the ground as they work to extinguish it.

The agency said Thursday that the roughly 55-square-kilometre fire had not grown in the past 24 hours and air quality was improving.

"Because of the progress made on the fire, the smoke production and the smoke coming off this fire is fairly limited," Roberts said.

"(It is) only coming from a couple of locations."

Dozens of homes had to be evacuated earlier in the week, but none were destroyed. There was no loss of livestock reported.

Indications were that some evacuees from Prince Albert and the Rural Municipality of Buckland would be able to return home at 5 p.m. Thursday, but those from the Rural Municipality of Garden River could not yet go back.

Highway 55 remained closed, but the city said the highway could reopen around suppertime with a reduced speed limit.

There were no structural losses, although there was significant damage to some power infrastructure earlier in the week, which knocked out electricity to the communities of Waskesiu, Meath Park, La Ronge and Stanley Mission.

SaskPower was expecting to restore electricity to most of the affected areas by 8 p.m.

Joel Cherry, a spokesman for SaskPower, said the work was slow going due to conditions on the ground.

"Our crews have worked non-stop since it first became safe for them to enter the affected area (Wednesday) morning," he said. "We made some progress on the transmission line at night; however, we've experienced some equipment issues and we’ve had to contend with some extremely difficult, boggy terrain around some of the structures."

Cherry estimated "a little over 8,000 people" were still without power north of Prince Albert.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2021

— By Julia Peterson in Saskatoon

The Canadian Press