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Sask. wildfires: Fire ban lifted for provincial parks, Crown lands following rainfall

While only scattered rainfall fell on Saskatchewan's most concerning wildfires, a cool and wet weather system has prompted the province to lift a widespread fire ban.

During a news conference Wednesday morning, Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) president Marlo Pritchard said while the ban is lifting, more localized bans may stay in place.

"Some municipalities and provincial parks continue to experience a high fire risk, such as the area north of the Churchill (River) did not get widespread rains," Pritchard said.

The May 16 ban applied to provincial parks and Crown lands north of Highway 16.

While the rain itself did not have much impact on the large wildfires that have been pouring smoke into nearby communities and forcing evacuations, Pritchard said the increased humidity has stifled their growth.

There were 24 active wildfires as of 10 a.m. Wednesday according to Pritchard.

The Shaw fire, located between Buffalo Narrows and Ile-a-la-Crosse had grown to more than 133,100 hectares in size as of Wednesday morning, Pritchard said. That's up from roughly 100,700 a day prior.

Pritchard said heavy equipment and air tankers are helping to protect Buffalo Narrows.

Air tankers are also targeting the Sharp fire north of La Ronge, which is 20 kilometres away from Sucker River, according to Pritchard.

He said progress continues in the fight against the roughly 65,500-hectare Vermette fire near Dillon, St. George's Hill and Michel Village with the focus of "mop-up" work shifting from the northeast edge of the blaze to the southern side.

The SPSA is currently supporting 81 evacuees in Regina, 112 in Lloydminster and another group in North Battleford, although Pritchard did not have an up-to-date number.

On Tuesday, there were 245 SPSA-supported evacuees in North Battleford.

Some evacuees have started to return home, and 20 expect to head back to Ile-a-la-Cross on Tuesday, according to the SPSA.

A number of "air scrubbers" have been sent to affected communities allowing residents to have the option of sheltering in place, Pritchard said.

The devices are best suited for large spaces such as gymnasiums or auditoriums, according to Steve Roberts, SPSA operations vice-president.

"It takes the large particles out that are associated with smoke in the community and basically cleans the air and allows people to have a spot where they can be out of the smoke, especially if they have some medical or respiratory issues," Roberts said.

"It gives them a little bit of respite, but they can stay in their community if they need to, at the same time."

Roberts said the air quality should continue to improve in the province's north as the wildfires "become more controlled" and the situation improves in neighbouring Alberta.

"We're already seeing some reductions because some of the smoke we experienced was from Alberta. As they also improve their fire situation, we'll see air quality improvements in Saskatchewan."

Two highways remained closed due to fire as of Wednesday morning, Highway 910 from the junction of 165 to Besnard Lake and Highway 911 from Highway 106 to Deschambault Lake.

Pritchard said highways ministry workers are staffing barricades on the affected roadways. Top Stories

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