Firefighters were called at about 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday to a grass fire just northeast of the community.
The fire ultimately torched an abandoned house and barn and stretched about three and a half miles in a diagonal swath.
The fire was flamed by extremely high winds.
“The fire was more problematic for us because of the warm conditions that day, and the high winds didn’t help us one bit,” said Shaunavon Fire Chief Dean McNabb.
The firefighting effort got a nice boost from Fauser Energy of Shaunavon, which dispatched a grader and water trucks to the scene. RM graders also helped the cause and a number of local farmers and oilfield workers pitched in to help battle the blaze. The Eastend Fire Department was also called to provide assistance.
Officials believe the fire may have originated from a burn pit.
The Shaunavon crew, while containing the original blaze, were called out to a second fire at approximately 5:40 p.m. at a location near the Rock Solid Refuge facility.
“Fortunately, by that time we had the first fire pretty much under control, so we were able to split the crew and send them to the second site,” said McNabb.
The second blaze was started through the accidental ignition of some bales. Again, a burn pit played a role in the mishap.
Fauser Energy also provided a grader and water tankers to the second fire. The Simmie and Bone Creek Hutterite Colonies provided equipment and manpower to the scene, as well.
“We’re very appreciative of all the help we received,” said McNabb.
Firefighters had the second blaze extinguished within a few hours and returned to the location of the first fire at about 8 p.m., just as their co-workers were putting the finishing touches on cleanup efforts there.
The crews returned to Shaunavon about 9 p.m. However, they didn’t have much time to rest as they were called out again at about 2 a.m. Wednesday morning after winds reignited a small section of the original blaze just northeast of town. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the source of the problem.
Just a day earlier, the local team had also responded to a fire about 10 miles north and four miles east of Shaunavon. The incident occurred about 5:45 p.m. on Monday.
Once again, the fire was ignited from a burning pit and some smoldering grain. In this case, the pit had been used over a month earlier.
The incident points to some extremely dry conditions that had existed in the Southwest right now.
“People should use extreme caution and not leave control burns unattended,” said McNabb.
The region’s potential fire hazard was dampened somewhat – although not entirely extinguished – with a small, helpful rain on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
Conditions improved much more over the weekend with some steady rainfall and early morning snow on Sunday.
McNabb also touched on another huge concern for local firefighters. The fire Tuesday afternoon just northeast of town drew a huge amount of traffic and onlookers. At one point, the scene looked like a busy city intersection.
In some cases, the motorists drove into dangerous areas as smoke limited visibility and fires threatened to jump grid roads (and did in at least one instance). Others drove up a narrow dirt road, potentially blocking fire trucks trying to access the site and firefighters responding to the scene.
“We’re asking people in the future to stay well back and away from the fires,” stated McNabb. “It’s for their own safety and allows us to maneuver our equipment around safely without having to worry about other vehicles.”
Interestingly, at one point, every current member of the Shaunavon Fire Department was on the scene in gear to battle Tuesday’s fires.
“It was nice to see such a good response,” said McNabb. “And for the rookies, it was a heck of a way to break them in.”