Dozens of patients have been moved out of a hospital in Biggar, Sask., because of smoke from a nearby wildfire that has covered a wide area but is moving away from the community thanks to a change in wind direction.
Authorities have transferred 53 long-term care residents to the health centre in Rosetown, while another eight patients have been sent to City Hospital in Saskatoon.
The move follows a state of emergency that was declared early Tuesday by the town and the Rural Municipality of Biggar after the blaze got rolling in an area six to eight kilometres southwest of the town.
The fire was declared out of control Monday afternoon and officials evacuated a wide area as a precaution, with shelter space provided at the Biggar Community Hall and the recreation complex in the village of Purdue.
Jeanne-Marie de Moissac, reeve of the rural municipality, says there have been no injuries and no buildings have burned.
She says the change in wind to the northwest is pushing the blaze away from populated areas.
“We’re exhausted,” said Biggar fire chief Gerry Besse, after spending more than 20 hours battling flames that officials say have burned about 100 square km so far.
“This is going to take days to put out.”
The fire was still listed as out of control Tuesday morning and people were being told to be ready to leave their homes if instructed.
Firefighters from four outside communities are helping Biggar and area emergency personnel. The provincial emergency response team is also on scene with staff and equipment.
Farmers in the affected area have been using their machinery to create fire breaks to stop the advancing flames.
De Moissac said water bombers are expected to attack the blaze, but she fears that a number of rural properties still face a fire threat.
“Emotions are high,” she said. “We’re not used to this. We’re tinder dry … that old grass just burns like gasoline.”
The Canadian Press