Fires in Central Canada

Fires in Central Canada

1July 2006

In central Canada, wildfires were spreading thick smoke and forcing evacuations on28 June 2006. Forest fires, many triggered by lightning, were burning in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite passed overhead and captured this image on 27 June. Places where MODIS detected actively burning fire are marked in red.

27 June  2006

(source: EarthObservatory)

Grayish smoke almost completely hides Lake Athabasca (upper left), which sits at the border of Alberta (farleft) and Saskatchewan provinces. A veil of smoke also covers Reindeer Lake, at the Saskatchewan-Manitobaborder. According to reports from Reuters news service (see below), the smoke is the primary cause of evacuation orders for communities in Saskatchewanprovince. On 26 June, MODIS observed smoke from the fires blowing southward several hundredkilometers, beyond Lake Winnipeg.

The high-resolution image provided above has a spatial resolution of250 meters per pixel.

See also latest news report:

Northern Canadian forest fires force evacuation


WINNIPEG, Manitoba — 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 still raging

Nearly 300 people from three communitieshave left their homes

A raging forest fire that has forced the evacuation of dozens of people from the northern hamlet of Stony Rapids is licking at the outskirts of the community.

The main fire has consumed more than 30,000 hectares and is looming 900 metres away, on the north side of the Fond du Lac River, while spot fires are flaring up on the south side near the community. The few resources available to fight the blaze are stretched thin under the yellow-orange sky.

The other challenge is the constant shuffling of evacuees to safety, said Julie Orthner, spokesperson with the provincial Department of Corrections and Public Safety.

“The situation is changing so quickly all the time,” she said, noting 298 people from three communities have left their homes and more are expected to flee.

“That’s the situation we’re looking at now,” said Orthner. “We’ve taken out those deemed most vulnerable (elderly people and those suffering from illnesses and respiratory ailments) and the next step is young children and mothers.”

But not all mothers are leaving. Julie Duff has slept only a few hours during the past three days and is staying behind as long as possible. She operates Stony Rapids’ water treatment plant with her husband, who also runs a general store, and is keeping the reservoir filled in the event any buildings catch fire.

“Hopefully they can get my children out,” she said, noting she has three children under the age of 12 and two teenagers.

As much fuel as possible is also being removed from Stony Rapids to avoid a potentially disastrous situation, said Val Nicholson, a spokesperson with Saskatchewan Environment’s provincial fire centre in Prince Albert.

Firefighters caught a break Tuesday when the constantly changing winds altered the fire’s course away from a beeline into town. The wind has also swept away much of the heavy smoke that was hanging above the region and stretching across the province as far as Regina, Nicholson said.

Those winds, however, can turn again at any moment and push the fire into new territory. The North is extremely dry and any fire that ignites will spread quickly, said Nicholson.

“Nobody can understand a fire to predict it,” added Duff.

About 170 Stony Residents were evacuated Sunday to Black Lake, about 20 kilometres southeast. As the air became choked with heavy smoke Monday, the evacuees and several Black Lake residents were shifted to Fond du Lac, 80 kilometres to the west.

More Black Lake residents were moved Monday evening but with tiny Fond du Lac unable to accommodate everyone, the province airlifted 217 people south to hotels in Prince Albert Monday night.

Now, Fond du Lac is packing up as another major blaze, which has devoured 55,000 hectares near the south shore of Lake Athabasca, is within 15 kilometres of that First Nations community. As many as 81 people were to be moved to Prince Albert Tuesday. Once they are settled into a reception centre there, the focus will be on getting out the mothers and children from all three communities.

Saskatchewan Environment has been criticized by some residents in Stony Rapids for not sending water bombers or additional personnel to fight the blaze sooner.

Daryl Jessop, a manager with Saskatchewan Environment’s forest protection branch, said water bombers could not have been used because extremely smoky conditions had forced the community’s airstrip to close. The community is too far away for firefighting aircraft to use another airport, hesaid.



Smoke, haze from Saskatchewan

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But in this case, the two area long way apart. That smoky haze Northlanders have seen and smelled the past couple days is coming from forest fires hundreds of miles away in Saskatchewan.

Reports indicate more than 50 fires burning as of Wednesday in dry conditions north of the border.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Duluth said they could see the source of the haze, drifting south, on satellite photographs today. The smoke was being carried into our area by upper level winds. Those winds aloft are expected to move out of the west starting Friday night, which should push the smoke out of our area bySaturday. 




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