Searchers have located a soldier who went missing on Monday afternoon near La Ronge, in Saskatchewan’s north. The soldier was part of a contingent of military crews battling wildfires in the area.
The soldier, a member of the Canadian Force’s Immediate Response Unit (West), was found “in good condition” around 8:30 p.m. CT following an extensive search.
The member was noted missing around 2:20 p.m., after taking a break from routine fire line operations in the vicinity of La Ronge.
When he didn’t return, members of the unit in the immediate area began a “box search” while other soldiers from the surrounding district moved in to help out.
“All available military personnel were involved in looking for their fellow soldier,” Lt. Derek Reid, a spokesperson for the 3rd Canadian Division, said in a statement Monday night.
“The Canadian Army Immediate Response Unit deployed to Saskatchewan is tremendously grateful for the assistance of the Wildfire Management Centre, the RCMP, Canadian Rangers, and other agencies that assisted. We look forward to resuming fire line operations in support of the Province of Saskatchewan.”
Northern Saskatchewan has been challenged with serious wildfires for several weeks, leading to evacuations of several communities and a massive firefighting effort.
Military officials expected to deploy a total of 850 soldiers, with 600 on fire lines and another 250 in support roles.
Including military, the number of firefighters in the region was around 1,500 and included crews from other provinces and the United States. About 90 northern residents also started fire training Monday so they can join the effort.
Flames and thick smoke have forced about 13,000 people out of their homes in at least 50 communities over the last two weeks.
Fires have destroyed 81 houses and cabins.
There were 127 fires burning on Monday, half of them near La Ronge, a town of 2,700 and one of the largest communities in the north.
Two to three millimetres of rain fell in the region on the weekend, but it was not enough to significantly reduce the fire threat.