More evac­u­a­tions as north­ern wild­fires spread

Recre­ational com­mu­nity of Tyrrell Lake asked to evac­u­ate as largest fire con­tin­ues to grow

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - PETER LOZINSKI

An­other small recre­ational com­mu­nity has been evac­u­ated as wild­fires burn­ing near Pel­i­can Nar­rows con­tinue to rage in Saskatchewan’s north­east.

Windy con­di­tions flared up the east side of the largest fire burn­ing in the area, the Gran­ite Fire. Now mea­sur­ing at about 110,000 hectares, the fire is burn­ing an area more than 16.5 times larger than the City of Prince Al­bert. The two other fires in the area, the 47,000-hectare Preston Fire and the 6,000-hectare Wilkins Fire saw min­i­mal growth from Mon­day to Tues­day.

That flare-up on the east side of the Gran­ite Fire led of­fi­cials to rec­om­mend an evac­u­a­tion of the recre­ational com­mu­nity of Tyrrell Lake at about 3 p.m. Mon­day. The flare-up also closed High­way 106 for a pe­riod of time.

On Tues­day wild­fire of­fi­cials said the com­mu­nity only has about four per­ma­nent res­i­dents, the rest stay­ing sea­son­ally. Any res­i­dents who evac­u­ated are stay­ing with friends and fam­ily. Two peo­ple who fled to Creighton re­quested as­sis­tance from Emer­gency So­cial Ser­vices.

There is a SaskTel com­mu­ni­ca­tion tower lo­cated in the small sub­di­vi­sion of Tyrrell Lake. Ac­cord­ing to wild­fire man­age­ment ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Steve Roberts, bull­dozer guards and sprin­kler sys­tems were al­ready in place in the area, and none of the in­fra­struc­ture was di­rectly im­pacted by the fire.

The bulk of the prov­ince’s wild­fire fight­ing ef­forts con­tinue to be fo­cused on those three fires burn­ing in the Pel­i­can Nar­rows area. The prov­ince is pro­vid­ing fre­quent tech­ni­cal brief­ings to com­mu­nity lead­ers who will have the ul­ti­mate say as to when peo­ple will re­turn to their homes. At this point, there are no rec­om­men­da­tions from the prov­ince as to when or how repa­tri­a­tion would take place.

“At this point we’re not mak­ing any rec­om­men­da­tions,” said deputy fire com­mis­sioner Ray Un­rau. “What we’re do­ing is iden­ti­fy­ing con­di­tions. Con­di­tions are still a lit­tle bit volatile. We saw what hap­pened with Tyrrell Lake yes­ter­day. We cer­tainly are in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the com­mu­nity and we’re let­ting them know what we’re see­ing and we’re work­ing with them to meet their needs.

“When we’re all on the same page as far as next steps, we’ll def­i­nitely be ready to take those ac­tions.”

In the mean­time, res­i­dents of Pel­i­can Nar­rows con­tinue to take shel­ter in Prince Al­bert and Saska­toon.

Emer­gency So­cial Ser­vices (ESS) is look­ing af­ter 2,797 peo­ple. Of those, 807 are in Saska­toon while about 1990 are in Prince Al­bert. A to­tal of 816 are stay­ing with friends and fam­ily in the Prince Al­bert area, 1,174 are in lo­cal ho­tels.

While the prov­ince would like to see more peo­ple head to Saska­toon, ESS co­or­di­na­tor Deanna Valen­tine un­der­stands that many evac­uees have friends and fam­ily in the P.A. area.

“The num­bers do con­tinue to be some­what fluid,” Valen­tine said.

“A lot of peo­ple have friends and fam­ily in the Prince Al­bert area and are go­ing to stay with those peo­ple, which is en­tirely their choice. We would en­cour­age peo­ple who have friends and fam­ily in Saska­toon or who would like to come to Saska­toon vol­un­tar­ily that it is an op­tion, although we are not com­pelling peo­ple to move.”

Ac­cord­ing to Valen­tine, it is typ­i­cal for more peo­ple to head north as evac­u­a­tion sit­u­a­tions con­tinue.

“Typ­i­cally we start to see peo­ple move north­wards,” she said.

“His­tor­i­cally it seems peo­ple have more friends and fam­ily in P.A. and area than they do fur­ther south. This is a typ­i­cal shift. It’s not un­com­mon.”

While it may be awhile be­fore con­voys of Pel­i­can Nar­rows res­i­dents do re­turn home, the prov­ince is pre­par­ing to es­cort con­voys of a dif­fer­ent kind. The Min­istry of High­ways has de­cided to al­low es­corted con­voys along High­way 106 from the junc­tion of High­way 135 to Creighton. That par­tic­u­lar stretch of high­way has been closed for about two weeks. Con­voys will run be­tween 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., and again from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily as con­di­tions al­low.

“Any­one in­ter­ested in trav­el­ing in that di­rec­tion can head to the bar­ri­cade and the junc­tion of High­way 135 dur­ing those times,” said ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions Doug Wak­abayashi.

“Be­cause the depar­ture is de­pen­dent on fire and vis­i­bil­ity con­di­tions, there could be some sig­nif­i­cant wit times.”

Those con­voys are open to any­one who wants to travel along High­way 106. But High­way 135 re­mains closed to gen­eral traf­fic.

“The con­voys run­ning on High­way 135 are strictly to fa­cil­i­tate re­sup­ply of Sandy Bay,” Wak­abayashi ex­plained.


A large plume of smoke rises over a north­ern com­mu­nity in this re­cent Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment photo.


An ac­tive wild­fire as seen from the junc­tion of High­ways 106 and 135.

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