NEWS

Wildfire threat lessens near Jasper, and for some Sask. evacuees

07/12/2015 10:15 EDT | Updated 07/12/2016 05:59 EDT
More than 400 wildfires are raging in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, but some regions have received good news.

Rain and the prospect of more of it in the forecast spells a huge shift in the forest fire situation in Alberta's Jasper National Park. It means the 50-square-kilometre fire that forced the evacuation of 1,000 tourists, hikers and campers from the popular Maligne Valley hasn't gotten any bigger.

Officials say the town of Jasper is not at risk.

In northern Saskatchewan, 122 active wildfires have forced about 13,000 people from their homes. But officials say that, overall, the fires have stabilized and some evacuees have been escorted home. 

Officials organized a convoy on Saturday to help people to return to communities that were not under a mandatory evacuation order — including Missinipe, Otter Rapids, Brabant, Southend and the Athabasca Basin.

People have been advised, however, to make sure they have supplies for the next several weeks if they return because there are currently no plans for another provincially run convoy.

Officials most evacuees won't be allowed to return home anytime soon because of hot, dry conditions and ever-changing winds.

Two massive wildfires in northern Saskatchewan have merged. Together, they cover an area of almost 1,000 square kilometres, and one edge is creeping dangerously close to the town of La Ronge.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says his government has already spent its firefighting budget for the year.

Nearly 70 army reservists from Saskatchewan underwent eight hours of raining on Saturday before leaving for the wildfire front lines.

In British Columbia, crews are battling some of the 60 new fires sparked by lightning on Friday, raising the total in the province to  more than 230. Resources are already stretched thin, so about 70 firefighters from Ontario have been called in.

The Cariboo Regional District said Saturday that a resort, two permanent homes, a seasonal home and multiple outbuildings on four properties were confirmed lost in the fire west of the small town of Williams Lake.

With the wildfire growing rapidly, an evacuation order along Puntzi Lake was expanded Saturday afternoon for the third time in three days.

When first reported on Wednesday, the fire was estimated at five square kilometres. That more than doubled to 12 square kilometres on Friday. But by mid-afternoon Saturday, officials said the fire had grown to six times that size, or 70 square kilometres. Officials say the fire has not been contained. 

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