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Smoke hampers travel in Saskatchewan

Smoke hangs over northern Saskatchewan
Smoke hangs over northern Saskatchewan

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

June 1, 2011 — An airport was shut down in northern Saskatchewan Wednesday with the threat of a wildfire nearby.

Forest fires active across the Prairies this spring
Forest fires active across the Prairies this spring

An out-of-control forest fire in northern Saskatchewan forced the closure of Wollaston Lake Airport on Wednesday. Air travel is the only way out of the region.

There is no road out of the community of about 1,400 people and officials say the lake is too frozen for a barge to operate. Close to 250 people from the hamlet and a nearby reserve were airlifted out on Tuesday before the air strip was shut down.

Officials with Wildfire Management said winds began to shift on Tuesday, which lead to drifting smoke and reduced visibility on the runway. According to a rescue co-ordinator in the area, flames from the fire were less than a kilometre from the airport.

There was a brief window of opportunity as smoke cleared late Wednesday afternoon, allowing 200 people to be flown out of Wollastan Lake.

Remaining residents have been moved to nearby schools with air conditioning to help them breathe.

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