Cote First Nation homes and livestock threatened by massive grass fire

On May 8, a grass fire on the Cote First Nation sparked a blaze that would eventually stretch over a number of hectares of the rural municipality. Assessing the extremely dry conditions and wind factor, Cote First Nation Fire Chief, Shaun Tourangeau, made a quick decision to call in support from a number of surrounding emergency response teams.

Crews from the neighbouring Keesekoose First Nation, Key First Nation, members of a nearby Hutterite colony, and fire departments from Kamsack, Canora, Rhein, Pelly, and the Provincial Forestry Fire Crew from Hudson Bay arrived on scene to help battle the flames that were rapidly moving in the direction of homes, cattle and horses on the RM of Cote.

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A spotting plane, also known as a “bird dog” scouted the scene from above, identifying hot spots for two water bomber planes to follow with the most efficient drops in an effort to douse the fast moving inferno. Meanwhile, on the ground, bulldozers from Broda Construction strategically moved the earth to build fire guard barricades in an effort to stop the flames from spreading any further.

As a result of the combined efforts on the land and in the air, the grass fire was considered under control by 11 p.m. that same evening, and support crews were relieved of service. Cote First Nation firefighters continued to work on the blaze until 3 a.m. the following Sunday morning.

It is believed the fire started near the Assiniboine River. However, those details and the cause of the fire are currently under investigation.

In a Facebook post, Chief George Cote expressed his gratitude for the support from teams and individuals who responded to help control the blaze.

“What an evening in the homeland with the grass fire but got it under control. Thanks to the guys in Cote First Nation Public works, security, some staff and Kamsack, Pelly, Rhein, Canora, Hudson Bay Fire Departments along with Key First Nation, Keeseekoose First Nation, the Clarion Hutterite Colony, Murray Hunter and the water bombers from Prince Albert, Kamsack RCMP, YTC Bonnie for coming out to help our Nation. Awesome example of working together. Shaun Tourangeau did a great job too. May you all get a good rest and be blessed for all you done today. We were praying along with the guys for this to not burn any homes or take any lives. Thanks for the prayers as well. All the glory goes to our Father in heaven.”

Crews responded to another grassfire in Badgerville around 5 p.m. on May 9. The area on fire was much smaller and was contained within an hour, according to Kamsack Fire Chief, Ken Thompson.

“I hope people are really aware of conditions right now,” warned Thompson. “This year has been especially dry and any type of open flame has the potential to cause rapid devastation.”

The town of Kamsack and the RM of Cote are currently banned from any open fires. This ban includes all campfires and all backyard fire pits. Although propane barbecues are not included in the ban, residents are asked to use extreme caution when cooking outdoors, and smokers are reminded to ensure all butts are extinguished beyond any doubt.