A fire ban is now in effect for all provincial parks and Crown lands across Saskatchewan due to hot, dry conditions and an extreme fire risk that covers most of the province.
The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) says the provincial fire ban includes any open fires, controlled burns and fireworks.
As of 4 p.m. CST, there were 16 wildfires in the province, two of which were contained. Those numbers are expected to change as the day goes on.
Saskatchewan has had 202 wildfires so far in 2021. This is slightly over the five-year average of 195.
The SPSA says the two most concerning uncontained wildfires at this time are the Briggs fire in the vicinity of the Cigar Lake uranium mine, and the newer Lock fire, which is located 45 kilometres west of Buffalo Narrows.
As of 11 a.m. Friday morning, the Lock fire covered 3,380 hectares. No structures have been reported damaged at this time.
"This fire is exhibiting extreme fire behaviour, significant growth as well. [It's] similar to what we're seeing all across Western Canada and the U.S. at this time," SPSA vice-president of operations Steve Roberts said at a press conference Friday morning.
The public safety association is using water bombers. Government crews and community firefighting crews from First Nations and northern communities are working on the ground, according to Roberts.
He says emergency service officers are working with leadership in the communities of St. George's Hill and Dillon Lake — over 20 kilometres from the Lock wildfire — in order to keep them advised and updated on the impacts of the wildfire.
"Currently the smoke projections are north from the fire. We do anticipate we may see localized smoke potentially starting tonight and maybe into tomorrow."
Roberts says the agency has moved some industrial air cleaners to the area which can be used in skating rinks or community halls to provide a cleaner atmosphere for those that might have respiratory issues.
"The focus of our efforts is to prevent migration of this fire eastward toward them," Roberts said.
SPSA encourages municipalities to instate fire bans
Many municipalities across Saskatchewan already have fire bans in place. But the SPSA is encouraging all municipalities to assess the fire risk in their area.
Roberts says public safety is working with the Ministry of Government Relations — which is responsible for all communications in the province's northern district — as well as Municipalities of Saskatchewan (formerly the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, or SUMA) and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities to communicate with municipalities.
"We have communicated and had discussions with both SARM and SUMA of our intent to put the fire ban on. And very often we see reciprocal behaviour by those agencies due to our response to the fire ban in the area," Roberts said.
The ban on open fires on Crown land also applies to Indigenous traditional burning ceremonies, according to Roberts.
"Occasionally, we'll work with communities if there is a need for a ceremonial fire or traditional burning of some sort. But we have a good relationship with our communities and we often have that dialogue on the necessity of having an open fire there and just have the same concern about those fires causing a significant event."