Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Thousands of Fire Evacuees from Saskatchewan Will Head to Cold Lake, Alberta

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Thousands of Fire Evacuees from Saskatchewan Will Head to Cold Lake, Alberta

Article excerpt

Thousands more flee from Saskatchewan fires

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MONTREAL LAKE, Sask. - Thousands more people in northern Saskatchewan are being told that wildfires are too close for them to stay in their homes.

But this time they'll be heading to Alberta instead of an evacuation centre in their own province.

The Alberta government said in a news release that the province and the Red Cross were activating a plan to receive up to 5,000 evacuees in Cold Lake, and that the first ones were expected to arrive Saturday afternoon. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the Canadian Forces base in Cold Lake would be assisting with the evacuation facilities.

Close to 5,200 people had already been forced from their homes in the past week due to the Saskatchewan fires.

Wall said he spoke with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the phone Saturday afternoon about the possible need for further help from the military with such a large evacuation.

"The prime minister was very accommodating and willing to make sure that upon official request that the resources are there," Wall told a media briefing Saturday afternoon, adding that other federal help might be necessary.

Local officials in La Ronge, Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band issued a general evacuation order on Saturday afternoon when the flames from nearby fires threatened their communities.

Saskatchewan fire Chief Duane McKay said the order could affect close to 7,900 people.

Thomas Sierzycki, the mayor of La Ronge, said in a tweet that local councils made the decision shortly after noon on Saturday in order to take advantage of daylight.

The closest fire to the community was only eight kilometres away, he said, and weather wasn't favourable for attacking it.

"Residents are advised to leave with a sense of purpose and urgency, but not panic," Sierzycki said.

Sierzycki warned people who were leaving that the highway south out of town was smoky and there were small fires along the way. Highway crews, he said, would be monitoring junctions. …

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