9 C
Prince Albert
Friday, April 12, 2024
Home News Vulnerable residents on standby for evacuation as crews fight wildfire near Stanley Mission

Vulnerable residents on standby for evacuation as crews fight wildfire near Stanley Mission

Vulnerable residents on standby for evacuation as crews fight wildfire near Stanley Mission
A firefighter prepares to suppress a hot spot near Stanley Mission while smoke rises in the distance. -- Photo by Jimmy Charles.

Vulnerable residents near Stanley Mission are preparing for evacuation should weather conditions worsen as wildfire fighters work to control a 3,883 ha blaze burning south of the community.

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band said they’ve had two calls a day with the Red Cross as the organization begins searching for hotel rooms in Prince Albert and Saskatoon should conditions worsen. The band also has three charter buses on standby in La Ronge to transport vulnerable residents south if needed.

Cook-Searson stressed that these moves are merely precautionary, as firefighters have benefited from favourable winds since the fire began.

“We’re getting ready just in case,” Cook-Searson said during a phone interview on Monday. “The winds have been in our favour, but it is a huge fire.”

Firefighters from Beauval, Patuanak, and the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) have joined with local fire crews to suppress the blaze. The SPSA has dubbed it the McCafe Fire, and said it may cause the closure of Hwy 915 while also impacting power lines along the highway.

Cook-Searson said there’s “an uneasy feeling” among local residents, who are ready for anything.

The fire is not a threat to the community right now, she said, but that could change quickly.

“We can’t predict which way the wind will go, but right now, it’s continuing to be in our favour,” she said. “If the wind shifts or stops, then the smoke will all come into the community.

“There’s been some hotspots, some flare ups today (Monday), and even yesterday,” she added. “Yesterday they made pretty good progress on the fire on the south side, but you just never know.”

The band has a list of priority one and priority two members in case of an evacuation. All members on those lists were asked to pack a travel bag with clothes, medication, and anything else they need in case of an evacuation.

So far, Cook-Searson said a few cabins have burned in the fire, but it’s not known how many. There have been no other structure losses reported.

Crews used a bulldozer to set up a fire line south of the community to protect valuable assets like the community gas bar, while air tankers worked to cool Hwy 915 running southwest out of Stanley Mission.

An update from Lac La Ronge emergency response officer Maurice Ratt at 2 p.m. on Monday placed the fire roughly 2.8 km south of Stanley Mission.

The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) issued a public service announcement on Monday warning residents about poor air quality levels due to wildfire smoke. NITHA medical health officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka said children, seniors, and those with heart or lung diseases such as asthma are at risk.

“Smoke can cause increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath,” Ndubuka said in the advisory. “Monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention if you get worse, particularly if you have a pre-existing respiratory condition.”