Sask. lifts provincial fire ban after rain provides some relief to northern wildfires
PRINCE ALBERT -- The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) has lifted a fire ban for provincial parks and Crown lands, thanks to scattered rain and cooler temperatures.
The ban, which also included the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District (NSAD), was put in place on July 2 due to hot and dry temperatures blanketing the province.
However, Saskatchewan’s active wildfire count so far this year is over double the five-year average and could be the highest in the last decade, according to SPSA vice-president of operations Steve Roberts.
“A fire ban is not predicated strictly on the number of fires. It has to do with the potential of starting unwanted fires, the issues of having to be able to manage fires and heavily weighted towards current weather conditions,” he said.
Some municipalities, rural municipalities and parks in the south may still have a fire ban in place where conditions are still extremely dry, Roberts said.
As of Monday morning, there are 161 active wildfires in Saskatchewan. So far this year, the province has seen 424 wildfires.
Roberts said this is more than in 2015, when wildfires caused thousands in northern Saskatchewan to evacuate their homes. He said those wildfires were much larger, whereas the current situation is a large number of smaller fires.
Joan Hrycyk, director of emergency and crisis support, said the SPSA is providing services to 84 evacuees due to the Lock fire, impacting Dillon and Michel Village. It’s also providing services to 12 evacuees from Whelan Bay due to the White fire; however, that evacuation order has now been lifted and they can start returning home.
Maurice Ratt is the emergency response coordinator for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB).
“So far, the wildfire situation has improved quite a bit. We had significant rainfall in the area, so we were able to start containing the majority of the fires and crews have been making good progress,” he said.
The community of Grandmother’s Bay voluntarily evacuated as a wildfire crept in only a kilometre away, but evacuees are heading home on Monday. Stanley Mission also had a fire about five kilometres away.
None of these wildfires are a threat to the communities anymore, Ratt said.
He encouraged band members to keep an eye on the LLRIB Emergency Response Facebook page.
“With any wildfire, it can change rapidly and we’re expecting some more warm weather this week, so we might see some heavy smoke again, some flare-ups.”
The SPSA has brought in local firefighters from across the province to help manage the wildfires, but none from outside of Saskatchewan.