Steve Roberts, the Acting Vice President of Operations for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, this morning gave an update of the fire currently burning in the Forte-A-La-Corne Forest east of Prince Albert. While not yet reported as contained, fire behaviour today is low due to the rain yesterday and overnight and the current humidity. The lower levels of smoke have allowed the fire crews to launch a better attack on the fire and Roberts reported the fire had not grown much since yesterday. The total hectares burned stands at 41,900 hectares up from an estimated 40,000 yesterday. Today’s reported size equates to 103,537 acres or 162 sq. miles or about half the size of the entire Rural Municipality of Fish Creek.
Yesterday’s high winds fanned the flames towards the west and southwest side of the burn, but luckily those areas received the highest amount of precipitation. In spite of the winds experienced yesterday and the day before fire crews have been making progress in their containment efforts, building and expanding fireguards and utilizing helicopters to dump water when they can. Winds over 50 kph make air support difficult, and in his report yesterday Roberts reported that this is a wind driven fire that has been aided by a lack of rain and the late spring. Normally by this time the trees and grasses are green already and therefore provide less fuel for the fire. Aircraft water bombers and retardant applicators are currently on standby in Prince Albert, but crews on the ground have not called for them. The SPSA has established an Incident Command Team of 29 SPSA personnel, 8 five-person fire crews with 2 more arriving today, 8 helicopters, 12 bull dozers and 9 crew trucks.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it has been determined to be a result of human behaviour as there was no lightening activity in the area at the time the fire started. Although farmers in the area had been burning fields to get rid of residue left from last years crop, investigators say this was not responsible for the fire start. The point of origin was within the forest. To date some farm fences have been destroyed by the fire and some beehives, but no other structures have been impacted. As well, there have been no evacuations. Elders with breathing difficulties on the James Smith Cree Nation are sheltering in place at a facility that has been equipped with air purification equipment.