Numerous large and smoky fires were burning in northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan on26 June 2006, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Terra satellite passed overhead and collected this image. Places where MODIS detected actively burning fires are marked in red. Fires surround Lake Athabasca and appear south of Reindeer Lake as well. Thick smoke has spread several hundred kilometers southeast toward Manitobas LakeWinnipeg.
The high-resolution image provided above has a spatial resolution of250 meters per pixel.
According to the Administrator of the small community of StonyRapids 170 people, including a local hospital, had to be evacuated Sunday when a forest fire came to within900 meters of the community.
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Northern Canadian forest fires force evacuation
Forest fires have blanketed a large part of the Canadian Prairies with a smoky haze and have forced the evacuation of 300 people, with three small communities on standby, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
“Right now it’s a smoke risk,” said Judy Orthner of Saskatchewan’s Public Safety Ministry.
About 50 forest fires, many caused by lightning, have broken out in northern Saskatchewan. On Sunday, strong northwesterly winds pushed the smoke south across the province’s grain belt and east into neighboring Manitoba. The haze had cleared up in some areas by Tuesday afternoon.
About 2,250 people live in the three communities that are 100 km (62 miles) south of the Saskatchewan-Northwest Territories border and could be evacuated if the smoke from the fires increases. The 300 people from these communities who were evacuated on Monday and Tuesday were deemed high-risk medical residents.
Saskatchewan has already lost about 250,000 hectares (600,000 acres) of forest to 200 wildfires this year. That’s more than half its 10-year average of 288 fires and 400,000 hectares (1 million acres), said Jeanette Krayetski, of the province’s Environment Department.
Forest fire threatens Stony Rapids
Residents evacuated; river the only barrier between town, blaze
by Darren Bernhardt
A massive forest fire in northern Saskatchewan is threatening the hamlet of Stony Rapids and has forced the evacuation of about 170 residents.
The sky around the region is a smoky orange and burning pine needles are falling like snow on the town, according to Julie Duff, a resident of the town, about 60 kilometres south of the Saskatchewan- Northwest Territories border.
“Flames are shooting above the trees” about 300 metres high, she said. “I’ve never seen a fi re this close to town or of this magnitude. It is crackling and roaring through the trees.” The only thing standing between the scorching fl ames and the town is the Fond du Lac River. Stony Rapids is situated on the south shore while nearly all of the trees along the north shore have been swallowed by the inferno.
“It came along the shore so fast, it was only a few hours before it was all gone,” Duff said.
She and several other residents have stayed behind to fi ght the blaze. Saskatchewan Environment fi refi ghters are using two helicopters with water buckets in a vain attempt to slow the burn. Residents have pulled out front-end loaders, water trucks and other equipment to clear a fi re line — a bald patch — through the trees to impede the fi re’s headway.
Those who were evacuated with the assistance of RCMP late Sunday were transported to a high school gymnasium at Black Lake, about 10 kilometres southeast of Stony Rapids.
Late Monday afternoon, 217 people considered at risk from the smoke of the fi re — elders and those with cardiac and respiratory problems — were fl own to Prince Albert.
Judy Orthner, director of communications with Corrections and Public Safey, said 39 of those evacuated were from Stony Rapids and 178 from Black Lake First Nation .
Black Lake residents aren’t at risk from the fi re, just the smoke, said Orthner.
“Currently there are no plans to evacuate other people from the communities,” she said.
On Sunday, winds were blowing from the west and it looked as though Stony Rapids would be spared. But the direction and intensity changed Monday, blowing from the north toward the town.
The gusts were so strong that by Monday afternoon, the sky in Saskatoon, 910 kilometres south, was fi lling with the haze of fi re smoke. The plumes of smoke from the fi re are also appearing on Environment Canada’s satellite weather images.
Embers and pine needles are being carried across the water and igniting areas in Stony Rapids, such as a brush fi re next to the shore-front hospital that was quickly snuffed out, said Duff. Other buildings on the shore, such as the RCMP detachment and a number of homes, are being kept wet and cool by sprinklers but there is not enough water in reserve to keep it up for long, Duff said.
She and her husband operate the water treatment plant in the town and are trying to keep the reservoir fi lled in case any structures catch fi re and hoses need to be hooked up. No buildings have been lost so far, although it is believed several trappers’ cabins on the north side of the river have been burned.
“It’s hard to see all of the damage because of the smoke everywhere,” Duff said.
The central and southern portions of the province have been deluged by rain through June but the north has been dry.
Normal rainfall for the month in the Saskatoon area is 61.1 millimetres, while the total this year is already at 108.5. In comparison, June rainfall for the north typically measures 54.7 mm, far above the 18 mm this year.
“And there’s no hint of signifi cant rainfall through the forecast to Friday,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Brad Shannon.
As of Monday morning, Saskatchewan Environment’s daily forest fi re report listed 196 fi res in the province this year with 53 still burning. There are 181 government employees working to contain them with 20 helicopters, 13 tanker aircraft, six bulldozers and four heavy all-terrain vehicles at theirdisposal.