TIMBER BAY, Sask. (CP) - Saskatchewan's first major forest fire
of the year was being held Tuesday, but not before it burned its
way into this tiny northern community.
A heavy rain Monday night helped crews get the upper hand on the
massive blaze, said John Cook of the provincial fire control centre
in Prince Albert. Some outlying buildings were destroyed but no
homes burned.
Residents of the tiny village were evacuated Sunday. Cook said
it will be up to local officials to decide when they can return.
"We were expecting to make good progress (Monday) with winds
from the southwest and a chance of thundershowers," he said.
"But what happened was one of those thundershowers realized a
enormous amount of rain on the area. There were puddles with as
much as six inches of water on the ground."
"We do not believe that there is any significant threat to the
community, at this point. But we have to emphasize that the
decision to return to the community is always with the community
leaders themselves."
Steven Bobiash, of the Community Resources Department, said 44
evacuees were being put up in La Ronge, a larger town further to
the north.
Cook said the fire has consumed 58 square kilometres of
wilderness - an area about half the size of Regina.
It started on the northern tip of Bittern Lake, about 200
kilometres north of Saskatoon, and moved to the north, missing the
larger community of Montreal Lake but hitting Timber Bay.
So far this year, there have been 155 forest fires in
Saskatchewan. That's well under the 283 fires that had burned to
this point last year.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Cook
said it's likely due to human activity.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)