NIPAWIN, Sask. (CP) - A state of emergency has been declared in
a northeastern Saskatchewan town after a huge blaze in a seed
cleaning plant sparked a forest fire.
Planes, helicopters and firefighters battled the stubborn blaze
near Nipawin, Sask., 275 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
The forest fire ignited after the Newfield Seeds facility burned
to the ground Monday night.
Although the forest fire seemed to be under control early
Tuesday, strong winds in the afternoon blew embers onto tinder dry
trees and grasses on the outskirts of the town.
As the fire nudged into an outlying subdivision, about 40
seniors were evacuated from a senior citizens complex and duplexes
that were in the path of the blaze.
The buildings were not immediately threatened and volunteer
firefighters managed to contain the fire, said town administrator
Peter Cannon.
"It's pretty smoky out there," he said from the firehall,
which is just across the road and railroad tracks from the
burned-out seed cleaning plant.
A crew of about 50 volunteers was battling hot spots Tuesday and
waiting for reinforcements.
"Those bodies are likely getting tired," Cannon said, adding
Nipawin residents sporting hard hats and shovels had joined the
ranks of volunteer firefighters.
"We're handling basically everything on our own. But if the
winds keep coming, we could end up with a situation."
The provincial forest fire centre reported that the Nipawin fire
was 10 hectares in size as of Tuesday evening.
Town Coun. Archie Bruce said residents have been told to stay
off the roads and in their homes until the blaze is brought under
control. He said the streets seemed quiet around supper time on
Tuesday.
"I trust the firemen; I don't feel threatened," said Bruce of
the only forest fire he can recall threatening the town of 5,000
residents.
"Most people probably want to go down and look. That's the
natural reaction in a small town, especially."
Officials suspect the cleaning plant blaze was caused by an
electrical problem.
Damage to the plant, which employed 70 people, could be more
than $6 million, plant officials said.
Meanwhile, with strong winds predicted into the evening, crews
were trying to keep the blaze from jumping a road and spreading
along the tree-lined banks of the North Saskatchewan River.
"If the winds go down, that would be a blessing," Cannon said.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed."

(Copyright 3587 by The Associated Press.