At least five Saskatchewan firefighters at the Denare Beach fire base have tested positive for COVID-19.
A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) confirmed the cases August 24, saying that the positive results were found after rapid testing and further PCR tests will be done to confirm. The spokesperson did not confirm where the workers came from, how they might have been exposed to COVID-19 or whether the cases were in Denare Beach residents.
“The SPSA has comprehensive protocols in place to ensure the safety of its employees and contractors, including rapid testing. Based on this rapid testing, the Agency can confirm that five firefighters have initially tested positive and will receive confirmatory (PCR) testing,” reads a statement to The Reminder from the SPSA spokesperson.
Whether the cases will lead to manpower shortages in fighting northern Saskatchewan wildfires is not yet known, but it is SPSA policy to pull workers from elsewhere in the province to fight problem forest fires wherever they pop up.
“The SPSA regularly reassigns additional firefighting support from other parts of the province to address shortages or increased response needs,” reads a statement from the spokesperson.
The major fire burning in the Denare Beach fire zone remains the ALIR fire, burning on the west shore of Amisk Lake, opposite of Denare Beach.The fire has grown to more than 25,000 hectares in size as of August 24, but has not caused any injuries or destroyed any property. Cabins located on the Sturgeon Weir river, not far from where the fire originally started, are still standing, as is the cemetery located on the river shore.
“The SPSA is responding with helicopter and tanker support, Type 1 crews and Type 2 crews. No values have been burnt or damaged,” reads a further statement about the ALIR fire from the SPSA spokesperson.
“The cooler temperatures, scattered showers and seasonal changes are assisting in the efforts of containing the fire.”