Massive fire north of Prince Albert, Sask., is threatening farms and acreages

Harold Fisher is wondering if he’ll have a home to go back to. 

Fisher had to evacuate his farm late Monday evening because of a large fire raging north of Prince Albert, Sask., about 135 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

“When I left last night, the sky was red. It was red all across the east and to the south where I am. The sky was just on fire,” said Fisher, whose quarter section of land is on the edge of the Nisbet Forest along Cloverdale Road.

“I guess today will tell the story as far as which way the fire goes, but it’s going to be some time before this blaze is out for sure.”

WATCH | Prince Albert, Sask., is in a state of emergency as a fire threatens homes and businesses in the area:

A state of emergency is in effect as a wildfire continues to spread in Prince Albert, Sask. 0:58

A state of emergency remains in effect for Prince Albert and the rural municipality of Buckland. Hundreds more people are on standby in case they too need to evacuate their homes.

Fire tracking to the northeast

The wildfire started at about 2.30 p.m. CST on Monday. By evening it had grown to more than four square kilometres.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said Tuesday morning that the fire had jumped across Highway 55. He said bulldozers are trying to create a barrier to save a nearby lumber site, although some stacks of wood have already been lost.

“We have quite a few homes on that side, big acreages. Plus we have a big commercial greenhouse operation,” he said.

He said a local pulp mill has been saved for the time being.

A wildfire north of Prince Albert, Sask., continues to spread after a state of emergency was declared in the city on Monday. (Submitted by Jason Craven)

Dionne said the fire has now moved into the Rural Municipality of Garden River and is tracking to the northeast.

That’s not good news for Fisher, as that means the fire is headed toward his property.

Fisher noticed smoke yesterday afternoon and called 911 right away. He said the fire blew up quickly and was moving very fast in the dry, hot and windy conditions.

LISTEN | Harold Fisher spoke with Leisha Grebinski on Saskatoon Morning:

5:36Man with house near Prince Albert area wildfire talks about fire’s rapid rise

The wind, heat and dry conditions have had scary consequences north of Prince Albert. A wildfire started in the middle of the day on Monday and it’s much closer to Harold Fisher’s home than the city. He joins host Leisha Grebinski. 5:36

“I could actually look across the field at one point and I could see the flames from the fire because they were shooting way above the treetops at that time,” Fisher said. “You could see new fires starting ahead of the fire. The smoke was rising, towering up and I imagine embers flying forward in advance of the flame.”

Fisher is hoping to get back to his farm, where he has a greenhouse. The power is out, so he needs to get the plants outside or he will likely lose them all.

Dionne said the situation is still tense, but so far no lives or homes have been lost.

“We’re still not out of the woods,” he said.

Light from a wildfire north of Prince Albert, Sask., was visible Monday night along with the northern lights. (Submitted by Jason Craven)

Dionne said one resident told him there were flames right near their house.

“A water bomber came along and sort of ended that. So he’s quite happy that his house is still there,” he said.

‘A tinderbox waiting for that lightning’

Dionne said this has been an extremely dry spring and the Nisbet Forest is at great risk for fire.

“We’ve known for years it’s dry and it’s just a tinderbox waiting to go up,” he said. “And unfortunately, that’s today.”

Fisher said there is a lot of infested dwarf mistletoe and very old jack pine — which could go up in flames very easily — west of where the fire boundary was yesterday. 

“That would be toward my property and that of some of the neighbours to the south of me, who are probably all sitting on pins and needles right now waiting for some news.”

Dionne said it is still a volatile situation, with the forecast calling for temperatures of 30 C and gusty winds.

“When we get temperatures of 33 C, what comes at night is lightning. So it’s just a tinderbox waiting for that lightning to come, so we are extremely worried.”

Several fire departments are working on the fire. The province has also sent three water bombers, a helicopter, spotter plane and more firefighters.