Why Sask. could be in store for average wildfire season despite dry conditions
PRINCE ALBERT -- Conditions are dry across the province in comparison to the five-year average according to the provincial wildfire branch of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
There have been 104 fires in the province so far in 2021. Last year there were 87 by this time.
“A little higher than we have for a five-year average but that’s because the last couple years have been extremely slow in Saskatchewan. So this is more of a normal-type spring fire numbers,” said Vice President Operations, Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, Steve Roberts.
Roberts says over the last five years there haven’t been as many forest fires in the province due to a normal to high amount of precipitation and slow snow melts.
The majority of fires started in the spring are caused by human error and in the summer lightning strikes are more likely to ignite wildfires says Roberts.
As of May 17, fire weather index created by the agency rates the southern half of the province as extreme. Areas in the forest fringe and north are rated as high.
“We would expect to see more grass fires in the spring and the late fall, in the very southern part of the province where they’re experiencing drought conditions … because everything is so dry down there, they aren’t greening up,” said Roberts.
Conditions in the mid to high north are rated moderate to low on the fire weather index.
SPSA fire crews are currently working on two small wildfires in the western part of the province. One, near Paradise Hill and the other near Meadow Lake.
A fire 13 km north of Prince Albert in the RM of Buckland was contained May 16. It burned an 5.4 hectare area. SPSA responded with a medium helicopter and bucket, two initial attack crews, a wildland truck, two Convair 580 air tankers carrying retardant and a bird dog aircraft with an air attack officer.
A fire in Prince Albert National Park that started May 13 has been brought under control on the weekend.
“Recognize that it is very dry out there, until we get some substantive rains, be cautious with your fire,” Roberts.
Roberts recommends people don’t park vehicles or ATV’s in tall grass. He says if you are having a campfire where it’s permitted make sure it’s completely extinguished before leaving the area and if you do see a fire or smoke make sure it's reported right away.