Biggar, Sask., declares state of emergency after grass fire

The rural municipality and the town of Biggar, Sask., issued a state of emergency this morning after a large grass fire filled the area with smoke.

On Monday afternoon, RCMP declared the fire out of control and were evacuating the area between Highways 4 and 51, as well as Tower and Duperow Roads.

As of Tuesday morning, a water bomber was being called in to battle the blaze and save farm buildings.

“If we don’t get it contained, it’s going to get real bad,” said volunteer firefighter and farmer Rob Danychuk. “With the wind switching, it’s still blowing to our vulnerable side.”

An emergency shelter was set up at the Biggar Community Hall so people with respiratory issues could have a place to breathe fresh air. It was closed after winds shifted, blowing smoke away from the community.

As a precaution, eight acute-care patients and 53 long-term care residents were moved out of the Biggar and District Health Centre to other beds in Rosetown and Saskatoon.

Firefighters were able to save many farm buildings from the flames.

The volunteer fire department was busy for hours.

“It got really large really fast,” said farmer Rob Danychuk, who battled the flames through the night. “It was a pretty large front for a volunteer fire department to try and put out.”

Dry conditions and high winds meant the fire grew to roughly 1,500 hectares.

Fighting the fire became more complicated when it shifted into trees and shrubs in the area.

“It’s not forest, but it’s poplar shrub that’s fairly thick,” he said. “So, you can’t get any equipment in there …You can’t even get the quads [ATVs] into there without being in big danger yourself from getting boxed into an area.”

Contact Red Cross if help needed

Police have asked that members of the public avoid the fire zone and obey instructions from emergency responders.

People looking for help can contact the Canadian Red Cross at 1-888-953-3463.

Town administrators have set up a command centre to relay the latest information to people in the area. Many farmers have donated their machinery to plow fields to starve the fire of fuel from neighbouring fields.

A local Hutterite colony had reportedly donated thousands of sandwiches in response to the effort.

As of Monday, 37 rural municipalities across southern Saskatchewan and five villages had issued fire bans.

Fire crews near Warman reported two large grass fires Monday night.

Last week, the provincial fire commissioner said a lack of rain had created dry conditions, and anyone doing any burning outside to take extra care.

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