Troops trade camo for jump­suits in for­est fire bat­tle

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY BILL GRAVELAND

“Watch out for the wid­ow­mak­ers!”

The pla­toon com­man­der shouts the warn­ing to about 200 sol­diers slog­ging their way through the dense brush, black­ened trees and smoul­der­ing ash in the tiny First Na­tions com­mu­nity of Mon­treal Lake, about 250 kilo­me­tres north of Saska­toon.

A wid­ow­maker is any large branch or tree­top no longer at­tached to a trunk, but still tan­gled over­head, that could fall at any time.

“Ob­vi­ously there's the dan­ger of the ash pits and the big con­cern right now is the burned-out trees - any wid­ow­mak­ers,” says Master Cpl. Casey Za­haroff. “And ob­vi­ously a flare-up.”

Casey is one of the hun­dreds of Cana­dian Forces per­son­nel who have traded their cam­ou­flage duds for bright-or­ange fire­fight­ing jump­suits to help beat back the flames in an un­prece­dented fire sea­son.

For sol­diers in north­ern Saskatchewan, for now, or­ange is the new green.

A hand­ful of homes and cab­ins in the area have al­ready been de­stroyed by fires.

The army was called in this week to help save the rest and get 10,000 peo­ple who have fled the smoke and flames back home. The help is sorely needed. Crews were hold­ing pro­tec­tive lines around threat­ened com­mu­ni­ties Thurs­day, but Steve Roberts with Saskatchewan Wild­fire Man­age­ment said warm, dry con­di­tions and shift­ing winds could cause more trou­ble spots.

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