Southend wildfire grows to 3,000 hectares

By Glenn Hicks
June 20, 2018 - 2:00pm Updated: June 21, 2018 - 9:48am

The wildfire burning near the northern community of Southend, forcing hundreds to flee, has quickly grown and now covers 3,000 hectares, or 30 square kilometres.

The blaze, labelled the ‘Woods' wildfire, is currently 13 kilometres away from the community at the south end of Reindeer Lake.

The leaders of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation reserve ordered a general evacuation Tuesday after the fire was first reported Monday afternoon.

Scott Wasylenchuk, with the Ministry of the Environment, said the blaze broke out in a very remote area with a lot of uninterrupted forest surrounding it.

“There are no roads to access the fire and it’s in terrain with cliffs and valleys and no fuel breaks between the fire and the community of Southend itself," he said. “That’s a concern to us at this time.”

Ray Unrau, with Emergency Management, said while there was no immediate threat, a change in weather and fire conditions could expose the community to the blaze. Multiple helicopters and air tankers were being deployed as needed, he said, and an incident management team is expected to be set up nearby by late Wednesday.

Meanwhile, more than 700 people had evacuated the area by Wednesday morning.

Dianna Valentine, with Emergency Social Services, said the bulk of the evacuees headed to Prince Albert with 163 going by bus and about 400 leaving the community in private vehicles. Roughly 160 others stayed much closer to home by going by boat to camps at Reindeer Lake, while another 42 headed to Saskatoon.

 

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 9:37 a.m. on Thursday, June 21, 2018 to correct a typo.

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