Saskatchewan farmer says SPSA not coordinating fight against English Fire

Ryan Reed, a farmer who lives close to Smeaton, Sask., told Global News residents are organizing their own fight against the English Fire because they haven’t heard from the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.

“It was neighbours phoning neighours to get things in motion,” he said, describing efforts over the past few days to stop the wildfire.

“It seems like there’s too many people that need to be told [what to do] but nobody yet wants to take charge.”

READ MORE: Only one water bomber used to fight English Fire: Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency

On Wednesday morning, Steve Roberts, the acting vice-president of the SPSA, told reporters the English Fire had grown almost 10 per cent since the day prior and was now 40,000 hectares, which is the size of Saskatoon and Regina combined.

He said the agency had deployed more resources, including more fire crews, helicopters and bulldozers, and that the rain and cooler temperatures on Tuesday were helping efforts.

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“In addition, our emergency services officer has made contact with area residents and jurisdictions in that area, giving them real-time fire and smoke information so that they can make decisions on alerts or orders as required.”

On Tuesday he said the SPSA was working with “the Smeaton volunteer fire department, local residents and landowners to protect properties that may become threatened.”

READ MORE: Wildfire burning near Prince Albert reaches the size of Saskatoon, official says

Reed said he never heard from the agency and neighbours had to organize themselves, working to clear fields of stubble and build piles so the fire didn’t burn further.

“We were watching the smoke for days, it just makes common sense. We’re going to get 70 km/h winds tomorrow or the next day, [the wind] is going to be coming out of the south going north so you’d better be ready.”

He told Global News one of his fields had burned but that it can still be used.

He also said he hopes for more coordination in the future.

Roberts said that, besides the partial evacuation of James Smith Cree Nation last week, no other evacuation orders had yet been necessary as they would only be warranted by “either a prolonged smoke exposure, that typically affects the high-risk medical components of the community or there would have to be a direct fire threat to the community itself.”

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