Thursday, June 2, 2011

Saskatchewan forest fire airlift in last stages; Canada -- hundreds being evacuated

Military transport planes and helicopters are airlifting the last of about 1,100 residents escaping a massive forest fire in the remote Saskatchewan communities of Wollaston Lake and Hatchet Lake First Nation.

The massive airlift began about 9:45 p.m. CST Wednesday, after three Hercules planes and four Griffon helicopters arrived in the area in the northern part of the province. The communities are about 800 kilometres north of Saskatoon and only accessible by air. The airlifts continued Thursday morning.

Despite concerns of smoke and shifting winds hampering evacuation efforts, the operation has gone "really, really smoothly, and we're very grateful for the Canadian Forces assistance; we would not have been able to do this overnight," Duane McKay, Saskatchewan's director of emergency response, said early Thursday from Regina in an interview with CBC News.

A federal government news release says the Public Health Agency of Canada is supplying beds, blankets and other essentials for more than 1,100 evacuees. (read more)