Wildfire in northern Saskatchewan prompts evacuation of Stanley Mission

·3 min read
Stanley Mission ordered a general evacuation on Friday due to a wildfire. (Submitted by Eliza Doyle/Facebook - image credit)
Stanley Mission ordered a general evacuation on Friday due to a wildfire. (Submitted by Eliza Doyle/Facebook - image credit)

A forest fire in northern Saskatchewan has prompted a general evacuation of Stanley Mission.

The community, northeast of La Ronge, began moving residents by bus Friday morning.

Tammy Cook-Searson, chief of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, said on Friday afternoon that while smoke from the blaze has begun moving away from the community,  the fire continues to be a threat.

"Last night, between 8 [p.m.] and 1 a.m., the fire was very active and was moving into the community on the … northwest side of the community," she said. "And it was a very scary situation."

Cook-Searson says people wanted to leave last night but were told to stay put as the smoke made for low visibility and other unsafe driving conditions on Highway 915.

We always try to prepare as best as we can, but Mother Nature does what it has to do and there's times we have to just do what we can to try and keep the community safe. Tammy Cook-Searson, chief of Lac La Ronge Indian Band - Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, Lac La Ronge Indian Band

As of Friday afternoon, four buses and many private vehicles filled with community members had left the area.

"We're evacuating the ones that want to go right away, so we're just evacuating as we go," she said. "I don't know exactly how many will be going out today. We also are having people, the ones that are able to help, stay behind."

Cook-Searson says evacuees are heading to either Prince Albert, Saskatoon or Regina.

"We're hoping for rain, but it looks like there's not that much anticipated rain," Cook-Searson said. "The relative humidity is … expected to rise in the next couple of days."

Submitted by Megan Cook/Facebook
Submitted by Megan Cook/Facebook

Terri Lang with Environment Canada says a low-pressure system is giving a bit of rain to the area.

"Not a massive amount of rain up there, maybe five to 10 millimetres worth, but the higher humidity will do a lot to sort of calm any fire activity," she said, adding "as temperatures coming down a bit, that will help with the fire behaviour as well."

As for wind in the area, Lang says it is gusting as high as 50 km/h but should start calming down by Saturday afternoon: "Everybody's going to get wet and everybody's going to get some wind."

Community prepared

Cook-Searson says the community is waiting for the general evacuation to run its course.

"Right now, the winds are shifting away from the community, so we're grateful for that," she said.

She says the community currently has 75 to 80 Type 1 (squad boss) and Type 2 (crew member) firefighters. These members are from the northern part of La Ronge and have even served on the La Ronge firebase.

"We also have local firefighters and our local community firefighters from the different communities, from Lac La Ronge band, that came out to help and then this morning. The Town of La Ronge fire truck and crew is here to help out."

Last July, Stanley Mission had to be evacuated due wildfires similar to this one.

Due to the location of the community, Cook-Searson says, evacuations are not a matter of "if" but "when."

"We always try to prepare as best as we can," she said, "but Mother Nature does what it has to do and there's times we have to just do what we can to try and keep the community safe."

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