Fire prompts evacuation of part of northern Saskatchewan city

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A northern Saskatchewan city has declared a local state of emergency due to a fast-moving wildfire that's forcing some residents to flee for safety.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne told an online news conference late Monday about three dozen homes have been evacuated so far in the northeast part of the city.

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He said winds are blowing the fire away from Prince Albert, but if the winds shift, the city of about 35,000 could be in trouble.

"We're fighting a monster. That's the best way to describe it. And it's getting bigger," Dionne said.

Anyone who lives or works north of highway 55 east of Cloverdale Road and west of Honeymoon Road must evacuate immediately. Evacuees are being directed to the Margo Fournier Centre in Prince Albert.

Premier Scott Moe said on Twitter the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency is assisting the Prince Albert and Buckland fire departments to contain the wildfire, including with crews, planes, and waterbombers.

Moe also urged residents to stay away from the area and pay attention to further information from local authorities.

The fire was burning on the north side of the North Saskatchewan River on Monday night and most of Prince Albert is on the south side of the river. Dionne said the winds were blowing northeast on Monday night, away from the river and the city.

However, Dionne said the temperature was over 30 Celsius and much of the blaze was in an area of mostly forest that was dry and full of deadfall.

Dionne said the area of the fire was about two-and-a-half kilometres square.

"It's creating its own wind tunnel ahead of it, it's got so large," he said, noting preparations are underway in case more of the city is threatened.

"At this point it's in control. And so is the weather."

Fire crews have been sprinkling houses, he said. Fortunately there have been no injuries.

Dionne said it started around 2:30 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon. It isn't known how the fire started.

Other areas that could be in the fire's path are also being warned by SaskAlert to be ready to move, including the Rural Municipality of Garden River.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2021.

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