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Crews hope rain, backburn will quench forest fire threat in Saskatchewan

STANLEY MISSION, Sask. - Crews battling a forest fire near a northern Saskatchewan aboriginal community are hoping rain and a backburn will help extinguish the blaze.

Steve Roberts, the province's executive director of wildfire management, says the 4,900-hectare fire is about 10 kilometres from Stanley Mission.

"We've got obviously days of work ahead of us — a 4,000-hectare fire is a large piece of landscape," Roberts said in a conference call Monday.

"Crews will continue to work on it, secure the perimeters, but a change in weather, even increased humidity and precipitation, will make it much easier for them to start controlling the boundaries so that the fire cannot progress and grow in size any longer."

Roberts said crews are doing backburns, which involve burning out sections of the forest ahead of the fire to stop it from moving towards the community. Sprinklers have also been set up around the community to protect buildings.

Controlling fuel for the fire and keeping the only access road open are essential in determining when people will be able to return home, he said.

"If we can achieve those objectives, then we will sit with the community and look at what may be the best solution for allowing folks to return."

About 1,000 people from Stanley Mission had to leave on the weekend because the fire threatened power lines and the road.

Evacuees are staying in La Ronge, Prince Albert and Saskatoon.

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