Red Pheasant Cree Nation councilor pleads for caution in wake of runaway grass

Red Pheasant Cree Nation councilor pleads for caution in wake of runaway grass
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A band councilor at Red Pheasant Cree Nation says he’s considering putting up surveillance cameras around the community in the wake of a runaway grass that nearly destroyed several homes on Monday.

“Somebody purposely started fires on the reserve yesterday and we don’t know who it was,” Coun. Leroy Nicotine said in a phone interview Tuesday.

He said they first became aware of the fire around 9:30 am, as heavy smoke started blowing towards the town site.

“In the town site, the houses are so close together, and there were 50 mile an hour winds yesterday. That fire was jumping roads fairly quickly,” Nicotine said.

Nicotine said they could have lost housing if crews from the neighboring Mosquito reserve didn’t step in to help.

“We have our own fire equipment, but it’s really good to see neighboring communities chip in and help out.”

As volunteer crews fought the fire, staff at the health center in Red Pheasant shared an “urgent memo” on Facebook, warning community members to take precautions and stay indoors as the air quality posed a significant health risk.

(Source: Facebook / Red Pheasant Cree Nation)

“As you may be aware, there are ongoing fires in the vicinity which have significantly impacted air quality in our area. “It is imperative that we take necessary precautions to safeguard our health and well-being.”

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Band staff also took to Facebook — trying to find out who started the fire.

At one point on Monday afternoon, they shared a photo of a truck seen near the source of the fire, offering a $500 reward for the community member who could identify the driver.

Nicotine said that it was a false alarm, and turned out to be someone from SaskPower working nearby.

He said they’re still trying to find out how it started.

“If it was just an accident, someone could at least come forward and say, ‘Yeah, I accidentally threw a cigarette out, and it got away, and I was scared to tell people something.’ We just need answers,” Nicotine said.

“We paid a lot of money for firefighters to come out, and we almost lost a few homes yesterday. Thank goodness that we didn’t, but it could have been a whole lot worse than what it was.”

The region surrounding North Battleford and Red Pheasant is at a high risk for wildfire, according to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency. A fire ban has been in effect in the area since April 10.

“It’s super dry, like people should use common sense,” Nicotine said.

“If you lose your home, you lose everything; all your belongings. These are the things people don’t think about when they start fires or throw cigarettes when it’s so dry out. “They gotta be more accountable.”

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