Wollaston Lake, Northern Saskatchewan, Fire Threatens 1,000

First Posted: 06/01/11 04:30 PM ET Updated: 08/01/11 06:12 AM ET

Wollaston Lake Fire Saskatchewan

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- WOLLASTON LAKE, Sask. - Smoke from an out-of-control forest fire has closed the only way out for residents from a northern Saskatchewan community who have been told they need to leave.

Officials said the fire, which covered about five square kilometres, was burning next to the Wollaston Lake airport, which had to be closed. About 240 people from the hamlet and a nearby reserve were airlifted out before the air strip was shut down.

There is no road out of the community, which is home to about 1,400 people, and the lake is too frozen for a barge to operate.
Steve Roberts, executive director of wildfire management, said shifting winds were blowing smoke across the runway, which was reducing visibility.

Rescue co-ordinator Anne Robillard, who lives in Wollaston Lake, said the flames were getting close.

"The fire is less than a kilometre," she said Wednesday. "The wind's shifting our way... and it's going to go directly to us.
Wollaston said she was trying to remain calm even though she could see the fire advancing.

"Personally, I'm taking responsibility, so I'm not on the panicky side yet. I have to say that because I see the flames so close."
Roberts said officials hoped the winds would shift again and flights would resume.

For the time being, residents in the community, about 840 kilometres north of Saskatoon, were being sent to stay in buildings with air-conditioning.

The fire was first reported to Saskatchewan Environment on Monday. The evacuation order came down Tuesday.

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Filed by Christian Cotroneo  |