Rain aids battle against Fort à la Corne fire

RM OF TORCH RIVER — Due to some rain, the growth of the English fire in the Fort à la Corne Provincial Forest has slowed.

As of 11 a.m. on May 21, the fire is estimated to be 41,900 hectares, compared to 40,000 hectares the day before. The largest city in Saskatchewan by land area, Saskatoon, is 22,800 hectares.

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“High humidities, cooler temperatures and precipitation yesterday and through the evening have kept fire behavior low,” said Steve Roberts, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency’s acting vice-president of operations, on May 21.

“Today we're seeing very low smoke and fire activity on the fire. As of this morning rain was reported on the fire across all parts of the fire, heavier on the west side than the east side.”

Roberts said the weather will allow firefighters to make much better progress on the ground, both with constructing fire guards and directly attacking the fire with fire crews.

“As long as the fire is not reacting to high gusts of wind, which will change some of our tactics, we can make much better progress,” he said. “We had good progress yesterday and we'll likely see much better progress today.”

There are now eight five-person First Nations crews from the eastern part of the province, six helicopters, 12 bulldozers, crew trucks, engines and water tankers working on the fire.  Water scooping aircraft and retardant aircraft are available in Prince Albert.

There have been no evacuations. As far as the Public Safety Agency knows, the only structural damage caused by the fire has been loss of fencing and beehives. The agency is still working to determine how much farmland has been affected by the fire, a task that’s been made more complex with planned fires done as part of seeding.

The fire is thought to be human caused. Investigators are still working to pinpoint what exactly caused the fire.

When it comes to communicating with local residents, Roberts said the Public Safety Agency has emergency services officers in direct contact with local fire departments and RM councils.

“That's our point of contact. They are the agency responsible for the private land and the residents in their area. They will also be the agency that will decide whether they wish to issue a public alert or an evacuation advisory,” he said, adding their communications focus on those local leaders rather than individual residents.

“We'll talk to residents in the area, but our messaging goes through their leadership.”

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