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Saskatoon News

Locals blame train for wildfire near Maple Creek

Fire crews still controlling hot spots
Reported by Natalie Geddes
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A passing train is being blamed for a wildfire that hit farm yards north of Maple Creek.

Maple Creek mayor Barry Rudd and area resident Susan Siegle think the blaze started with the passing of a CP Rail train and was fanned into an inferno by Tuesday's strong winds.

But Kevin Hrysak with CP Rail says they haven't found proof it was their train.

"We only had one train went through that area about two and a half hours before it was reported there was a fire," said Hrsysak.

The provincial fire commissioner said the cause of the fire is still unknown and the investigation will start in the next few days.

Hrysak says they've done a mechanical assesment on that train. They didn't find anything wrong but adds they will comply with further inspections.

Fire under control

As for the fire, the worst is over but small flare ups continue.

This morning it appeared three empty houses were destroyed in the blaze last night that swept through fields.

Siegle and her husband have not slept since the fire swept through their ranch near Maple Creek. It was fueled by strong winds gusting up to 70 kilometres an hour last night and scorched their farmyard.

“It has burned a lot of grass, I have no idea how many acres. All the fences are gone and it came right up to the corner of our house and took out a small deck,” she said.

Siegle’s house survived but she is waiting to hear how her neighbours fared.

She said the flames hit the ranch around 6 p.m. and quick-thinking neighbours saved their livestock.

"We had some really good neighbours that came over, cut fences and chased them out of harms way, otherwise we probably would have lost a significant number of cows," she said.

Rudd believes about five properties in the area suffered damage from the fire. Crews are back out at one of the houses that started burning last night.

"The house that was there, it burnt a little bit last night but it relit again this morning so it will go down this morning I'm sure," he said.

Fire crews still on the scene

Nine fire departments from Shaunavon, Gull Lake, Tompkins, Piapot, and Walsh worked through the night to control the fire. Small flare ups continue  but local fire chief Keith Stork, said they are controlling hot spots and the major threat is over.

Provincial emergency crews from Prince Albert flew into the area to help out and they remain on the scene today. Saskatchewan fire commissioner Duane McKay explained their role.

"Local volunteer fire departments can only work so long before they need rest, so this crew comes in to help with mop up operations or to take over," McKay said.

He is also warning anyone in the southwest area against using fire over the next few days.

"Our fear right now is that another fire related to this one or an independent fire might spark," he said.

There are many areas still burning but at this point the flare ups are inside the area left charred last night.

Edited by News Talk Radio’s Adriana Christianson and Karen Brownlee with files from Chris Mangatal and Fan-Yee Suen