Residents of Deschambault Lake are still in limbo a week after being evacuated from home due to a wildfire - but after a week of firefighting efforts and occasional rain, things are improving.
The community is still under an evacuation order due to the KPIR fire, but few new hotspots have been found with the fire in the past several days and the ones that have been reported are away from both the community and the road leading to it.
According to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA), the fire has reached a size of just under 9,000 hectares since first being spotted March 18. The fire was started by an unknown cause around the Twin Bays area of the lake, then spread south and east toward both the community of Deschambault Lake and Highway 911, the only road into and out of town.
At its closest point, the fire burned within three kilometres of the community, according to SPSA mapping of the fire and area.
Data from the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) shows no new hotspots have been reported with the fire since May 24, with those found burning to the west of where the fire was originally found, away from the town and Highway 911.
While the data shows positive signs, the KPIR fire is still considered "not contained" by the SPSA and efforts to fight it are still ongoing, both with SPSA personnel and emergency personnel with the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) and Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) fighting the blaze. Heavy equipment is on the ground to create fire lines and breaks, while helicopters and fixed-wing craft, including water bombers, are in the air.
PBCN leadership have thanked emergency personnel for their work and people evacuated from Deschambault Lake for their resilience. People from Deschambault Lake have been moved to several different communities in Saskatchewan and in Manitoba by PBCN and the Red Cross, including Flin Flon, Creighton, Denare Beach, Prince Albert and Saskatoon. People who have stayed behind have had to breathe in heavy smoke, both as a result of the KPIR fire and several larger fires to the northwest.
“We ask for continued prayers and support for Deschambault Lake. The members have been displaced for a week, and I thank them for their cooperation and patience," said PBCN Chief Karen Bird in a statement issued May 25.
"We must continue working together during this evacuation. We hope and pray that the fire and smoke will subside, so that our Deschambault members can get back to their homes and the community.”
Winds are expected to change Friday night and into the weekend, potentially sending the fire back east toward already burned territory. That wind will likely blow more smoke into Deschambault Lake, causing what are expected to be poor air conditions. Highway 911 remains closed.
"We extend our sincere gratitude to PBCN Emergency Services and Partners, Health, Education, ICFS, PBCN Administration and PAGC for looking after our members that have been displaced by the fire. We ask our members to keep the firefighters in their prayers, asking for their safety and to support and encourage one another,” Deschambault Lake councillors Peter R. Beatty and Walter Ballantyne are quoted as saying in a PBCN statement.