A fire ban is in effect across the province as a continued heat wave creates hotter and drier conditions.
The ban is in effect for all Crown lands and provincial parks. It applies to open fires, controlled burns and fireworks, a provincial news release said. It also includes all areas in the Northern Administrative District.
While many municipalities already have fire bans in place, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency is encouraging all of them to evaluate fire risk in their areas, the release added.
“We know that this is a popular weekend for camping and outdoor activities, but due to the extreme conditions across the province, implementing a fire ban was a necessary decision,” noted Steve Roberts, who is SPSA vice-president of operations.
Seventeen wildfires are burning in the province. To date, Saskatchewan has had 202 wildfires. The five-year average is 195, Roberts said.
There are two fires of concern. One is roughly 45 kilometres west of Buffalo Narrows, and about 20 kilometres away from the community of St. George's Hill. No structures have been lost to the fire, but there may be some smoke concerns in the next 24 to 48 hours, he said.
SPSA is using industrial air cleaners like those used in hockey rinks to manage the smoke, he said.
The other fire is near Cameco's Cigar Lake uranium mine in Northern Saskatchewan. It sparked on Tuesday, and engulfed more than 1,500 hectares by 8 p.m. the next day, he said. On Thursday, Cameco evacuated the mine of 230 non-essential workers.
The staff flew out as the fire neared the site's airport, but route access is open, Robert said. In a news release, Cameco said about 80 essential workers stayed at the site.
Roberts said the fire is being managed, with the key aim of protecting mine infrastructure. Fire crews are burning off three critical fuel areas to help prevent the blaze's spread, he said.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said it was monitoring the situation in a tweet on Thursday.
The province has deployed air tankers to protect valuable areas and fight the two fires. Some are also used to support firefighters on the ground, Roberts said.
The heat wave blanketing Western Canada has been most acutely felt in the Village of Lytton, B.C., which this week saw three successive days of record-breaking hot temperatures that topped out at 49.5 C on Tuesday — the hottest ever recorded in Canada.
A fire sparked in the community late Wednesday afternoon and flashed into an inferno within 15 minutes. The village and surrounding First Nations were ordered to evacuate. Most of Lytton was destroyed by the fire.
— with files from Postmedia
Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix