The northern Saskatchewan village of Buffalo Narrows has declared a state of emergency and is evacuating its residents due to a nearby wildfire.
Mayor Sandy Ericson issued an evacuation order on Sunday as the Shaw fire spreads to 25,000 hectares. The order applies to people with respiratory issues, the elderly, pregnant women and children under two years old.
“It’s burning quite aggressively right now. We are having difficulties at this point in time just due to the smoke conditions and the fire intensity,” said Bryan Chartrand, executive director of land operations with the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA).
The SPSA is assisting 95 people from Buffalo Narrows, providing them with food and a hotel in Lloydminster.
The nearby communities of Dillon, Saint George’s Hill and Michel Village have also been evacuated.
Another fire in the area, named the Vermette fire, is 26,000 hectares and continues to grow. Both are uncontained, according to the SPSA.
Chartrand estimated that evacuees won’t be able to return home for at least a week.
The Northern Village of Ile-a-la-Crosse is in no immediate danger from the nearby Shaw Fire, according to an EOC update on the village’s Facebook page. However, smoke is a concern as the fire continues to burn eastward.
“The wind is favorable for Ile-a-la Crosse as this time, but a reminder that conditions can change rapidly during wildfires of this nature,” reads the statement.
The SPSA is using the community’s ball diamond and recreation field for additional landing space, and the Sakitawak Events Centre will remain open for members of neighbouring communities who have to evacuate.
Above average wildfire season causes air quality risk
The SPSA’s executive director of aviation operations, Peter Boniface, said there have been 161 wildfires so far this year, which is more than double the five-year average of 77.
“We’re expecting to see hot and dry conditions throughout the week, as they have been,” he said.
“We urge everyone across the province to be diligent in preventing fires and protecting communities.”
According to the SPSA, there are currently 33 active wildfires. Eleven are contained, 14 are ongoing assessment, meaning the fire is being regularly monitored, one is protecting property, meaning efforts are focused on protecting values, such as buildings, and seven are not contained.
Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index lists Buffalo Narrows as ‘very high risk.’