The uncontrolled wildfire west of Prince Albert burning close to Holbein and Crutwell remains the same size, but there was some good news following a very tense Tuesday.
Officials said the change in the weather and wind direction Wednesday boded well for the battle to contain the 2,100-hectare blaze, which crept as close as 2.5 kilometres to both rural communities.
“With the easterly winds and cooler temperatures for the next day or so we should make good progress on the fire,” Scott Wasylenchuk, with Wildfire Management, told reporters Wednesday.
The mood among officials was a far cry from Tuesday afternoon when the 30-degree temperatures and northwesterly winds created serious concerns and forced the second temporary evacuation of Crutwell in as many days.
“We had probably half a dozen helicopters, air tankers, and aircraft from other parts of the province, so we went after the fire really hard,” Wasylenchuk said. “That was a serious situation, especially with the high temperature, low humidity, and high winds. I can’t say enough about the men and women who went after the fire.”
Flying embers were also an issue Tuesday, Wasylenchuk added, with spot fires breaking out 400 metres east of the river.
“The fire got into a pocket of fuel and kicked up, sending embers to the other side. Our crews and those from municipal fire departments contained them," he said.
The geographic landscape around the so-called Rally Fire is both helping and hindering containment efforts, Wasylenchuk noted. While a wildfire burned through the area a number of years ago, Wasylenchuk said new growth is still catching alight very quickly. On the positive side, he said heavy equipment can be moved quickly, in order to attack the fire from multiple directions.
As for the wildfire burning on the edge of the Prince Albert National Park, he said air tankers have been deployed along with value-protection crews. Teams were being brought in from outside of the province to assist parks and municipal crews. Thirteen families with the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation have self-evacuated from the area.
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