Wildfire season may be months away, but communities are taking steps in the winter to prepare.

The Saskatchewan Public Service Agency is conducting wildfire mitigation work in eight communities and 11 First Nations this winter.

“We’re working with communities to identify areas where we can reduce wildfire risk. We’re doing that by thinning out the forest. Our goal isn’t to stop a wildfire, the goal is to create an environment where suppression personnel are more effective,” Larry Fremont, wildfire prevention coordinator, said.

The Australia wildfires has people more aware about their own safety near forested areas, according to Fremont.

“People automatically think we are talking about a clear-cut, and once they see the work that’s being done they’re in favour of it,” Fremont said.

“We’re clearing the underbrush, we’re pruning the branches and we’re thinning out to about two meters so it ends up to be a very park like condition.”

This winter, work is being conducted at the following places:

  • Peter Pond
  • Kristi Lake
  • Lower Fishing Lake
  • Candle Lake
  • Ramsey Bay at Weyakwin Lake
  • Lac la Plonge
  • Little Bears Lake

In 2003, Rick Rumberger bought the Candle Lake Golf Resort. It was the same year wildfires threatened the north-end of the lake. Since then, it’s been concern for his business.

“I’ve always thought about that, like if a fire ever hit through the area, it would be devastating for our business for sure,” said Rumberger, the general manager of the Candle Golf Resort.

He’s in favour of the work being done to help prevent the spread of fire near the resort’s subdivision and golf course.

“Nobody likes trees cut down in their backyard, but it is necessary to prevent damage if we do end up with a fire like in Australia or something like that here,” Rumberger told CTV News.

The tender for the wildfire mitigation work for the Candle Lake area went to Peter Ballentyne Cree Nation. Fremont said the work is also creating employment.

In 2019, the province received funding from the federal government’s Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Program to conduct the work. Over the next nine years, $38-million will be allocated to fire prevention in about 90 Saskatchewan communities.

SaskPower also received $25-million from the federal government program. It plans to match the contribution and spend $50-million on vegetation management and wildfire control over the next nine years.