More evacuations ordered as Cloverdale wildfire continues to grow

A helicopter, pictured on a background of heavy smoke, carries buckets of water to help battle a large wildfire burning north of Prince Albert on Tuesday, May 18. Daily Herald Staff

More evacuations have been ordered as the wildfire burning north of Prince Albert continues to grow.

On Wednesday morning, an evacuation order was issued for residents of the Berg Subdivision of the RM of Garden River.

The evacuation order noted that the fire was threatening the residents.

“The wildfire is fast moving and individuals that are in the Berg Subdivision must start evacuation immediately,” the alert, sent over the province’s emergency alert system, read. Officials say the expanded evacuation notice affects roughly a dozen acreages located east of the fire.

People are asked to register at the Margo Fournier Centre in downtown Prince Albert once they evacuate.

A voluntary evacuation order was issued Tuesday for residents living within 2 km of the Nisbet forest.

The wildfire, named the Cloverdale Fire after the subdivision where it’s believed to have started, is still listed as uncontained and has been burning since Monday afternoon. Residents in the City of Prince Albert and RM of Buckland living between Cloverdale Road and Honeymoon Road were ordered to evacuate Monday.

So far, 75 households have registered in Prince Albert. Of those, 45 individuals are receiving support from the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency and being housed in Prince Albert hotels.

Residents who evacuate are being asked to register so they can receive the latest updates on the fire from officials and any support they may need. Not all residents will evacuate, the provicne said, as some will stay behind if they’re qualified and able to help with the wildfire response.

As of Wednesday, the fire had grown to over 3,700 hectares. Cooler weather and calmer winds made the work easier for crews Wednesday. The number of people fighting the fire continues to grow. In addition to five helicopters, water and retardant bombers and heavy equipment, an emergency operations team has been assigned to the fire. The Prince Albert Fire Department, RM of Buckland Fire Rescue and six First Nation community firefighting crews are on the ground protecting homes and other infrastructure.

So far, their efforts have proven successful. No homes have been lost, and industrial operations in the affected area have been protected. Some log decks piled by the side of the road in nearby logging operations were burned, as was an officer trailer stored at the corner of a lot, but no other assets are reported as damaged.

The fire has spread up to the perimeter of the Prince Albert Pulp and Paper Mill site, the Carrier Forest Products location and Aallcann Wood Products, but air support and ground crews have kept the facilities themselves from catching fire. Some witnesses reported fire burning alongside the edges of the Aallcann site, possibly burning some of their material, but the facility itself has been protected.


The fire also took out several SaskPower transmission structures. As of Wednesday, SaskPower reported that 15 power poles supporting a transmission line had been damaged, with some burning right to the ground. The downing of that transmission line cut power to about 9,000 customers as far north as La Ronge, the utility said. By Tuesday night, power had been restored to about 1,000 customers located between Spruce Home and Christopher Lake, as they weren’t primarily served by the burnt transmission line.

For the remaining 8,000 customers, SaskPower said, if all goes well power will return by Thursday. Crews were allowed access to the damaged transmission line Wednesay morning. If the cable itself isn’t damaged and fire conditions don’t change, they can restring the line and have it fixed within 24 hours. If the line needs to be fixed, however, or if the fires change direction, those repairs could be delayed to as late as Saturday.

In the La Ronge area, the Tri-Communities issued a local declaration of emergency which will allow them to access emergency funding and put them in a priority position for resources required until power is restored.

Water remains safe to drink in the region, though residents are being asked to reduce consumption to avoid overworking backup systems that run lift stations. The La Ronge Health Centre remains open and COVID-19 test site sis still operating. There is no gas shelter and food stores are set to open today or tomorrow. Restaurants are also open, and the JRMCC is offering food services and bagged meals to elders and anyone in need.

Those power outages have also affected SaskTel, which said Wednesday that it is running 17 of its sites on generators. In areas without phone service, residents will have to physically contact emergency services by going to their nearest RCMP detachment if they need assistance.

The RM of Garden River is located east of Prince Albert and the RM of Buckland. According to reports Tuesday, the fire had travelled at least 14 km northeast of its initial ignition point, all the way to White Star Road. It also breached Highway 55 to the south, though officials said that area has since been contained. Fire guards are being built using heavy equipment to contain the blaze, which has reached farmland on the east.

That farmland will help to slow the spread, officials said, as it provides less fuel.

Some rain is predicted for Wednesday afternoon. Any moisture, cooler temperatures or even humidity will help to calm the fire down and allow crews access to work towards extinguishing the blaze, officials said.

Highway 55 remains closed from Prince Albert to Meath Park. Residents needing to get to Prince Albert from the northeast are asked to take Highway 355 to Highway 2.

Pulp Haul Road is also closed due to the fire.

The Cloverdale Fire is one of six wildfires the province is managing right now. Two other fires are also listed as uncontained. One of those fires is burning about 30 km east, in the Fort A La Corne Provincial forest.

That fire is burning in the same spot as a 1980 wildfire. It was sitting at 306 hectares Wednesay and is also being tackled by crews and heavy equipment. Helicopter and air tanker support was also being given to that fire.

Community stepping up

As the wildfire situation continues well into its third day, more community members are stepping up in the ways they can.

Arsenal K9, a dog training company, is housing dogs and cats at its facility for evacuated residents at no charge.

Other local businesses, such as Phantom Light Distillery, have offered their secure compound for storage, while Saskatoon Livestock Sales is offering to house livestock that need to be evacuated from affected rural properties.

The local Canadian Tire donated 50 cases of water to the wildfire centre to provide relief to the firefighters working around the clock to protect businesses and homes. Local resident Justine Hunter organized a fundraiser that ended up providing over $2,000 in food and supplies to the firefighters on the frontlines.

Photo courtesy Canadian Tire. Canadian Tire in Prince Albert donated 50 cases of water to firefighters.

“Many members have been on scene for over 24 hours and continue to assist in suppression efforts and salvaging property, assets and life,” the Prince Albert Firefighters wrote on Facebook.

“The food and refreshments bought with the monies raised will be much welcomed by all the emergency services involved.”