Lightning, coupled with very dry conditions, has produced nineteen new wildfires in the province. One of those strikes sparked a significant blaze near the McArthur River uranium mine site.
The ministry of environment said one of 15,000 lightning strikes over a 24-hour period caused the 6,000 hectare fire that is now within a few kilometres of the currently-dormant mine.
Steve Roberts, with Wildfire Management, said the facility was well-prepared for the potential of a wildfire and crews were working alongside mine personnel to protect important infrastructure.
“They have their own emergency services crew and heavy equipment on site, and we do pre-planning with them early in the spring,” Roberts told reporters Friday. “They know what’s going on.”
Roberts said the site was 'Fire Smart' with fireguards and other protection areas, but “as the fire encroaches, that of course causes concerns.” SaskPower transmission lines were also among the priority infrastructure being protected, he added.
Meanwhile the 'Woods' wildfire burning near Southend, which forced many to flee the community, has grown in size but has not moved closer to the northern reserve. The 5,500-hectare blaze was still around 13 kilometres away from Southend on the southern end of Reindeer Lake and about 15 kilometres away from the small community of Brabant to the west, according to Roberts.
Officials had a clearer grasp of the evacuation numbers Friday. Over 700 people were forced to leave Southend this week, and most received assistance in Prince Albert.
Dianna Valentine, with Emergency Social Services, said of the 579 registered evacuees, 278 were staying at P.A. hotels and another 245 were lodged with family and friends. Forty-nine had gone to Saskatoon and seven were in La Ronge. Others chose to cross Reindeer Lake and stay in various campsites, she said, although precise numbers weren't known.
Valentine said activities were being arranged for the many families displaced to P.A. including trips to playgrounds and bingo. Evacuees were receiving two meals a day, she said.
As for the weather outlook, officials said the record heat from earlier in the week has now started to make way for slightly cooler temperatures and some periods of rain have already produced better humidity levels. However, on the flipside, there was a chance of further lightning activity late Friday and unpredictable winds.
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