Black Lake First Nation evacuated due to large forest fire

Black Lake First Nation evacuated due to large forest fire

16 May 2015

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Canada — A forest fire has caused the evacuation of a community in Saskatchewan’s north this weekend.

The large blaze is currently burning near the Black Lake Denesuline First Nation.

Chief Rick Robillard said more than 600 of the 1,700 people who live on his reserve had to leave.

Forty-seven adults and six babies were flown to safety in Saskatoon Friday night.

Robillard said these individuals were taken to a hotel in the city as they face higher health risks from the heavy smoke than others do.

He said about 600 other residents from Black Lake were taken to the nearby hamlet of Stony Rapids, Sask.

“Through the night, Mother Nature was on our side, we had some rain and snow,” Robillard said.

A government spokesperson agreed and explained that although overnight precipitation stabilized the fire in the area of Black Lake considerably, the fire is not yet contained.

Robillard said Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management (SERM) is currently surveying the damage and while no injuries have been reported, there is significant damage.

“Approximately 160 to 200 hectares burned yesterday,” Robillard said. “It completely destroyed the popular local tourist camp called Camp Grayling.”

He also said that the exact cause of the fire is still unknown.

He said local firefighters, SERM employees and volunteers tried to fight the fire.

However, Robillard said that by 7:30 p.m. CST on Friday evening the fire had moved closer to the community and he decided to declare a state of emergency in order to evacuate Black Lake.

Staff from the ministries of Government Relations and Social Services are coordinating evacuation efforts with the community, according to the government spokesperson.

Fire crews from the Ministry of Environment are currently on-scene establishing a fire guard around the community.

Robillard said people will not be able to return to the community until SERM can confirm that the fire is under control.

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