Sask. might call in firefighters from across Canada as number of wildfires grow

·3 min read
A wildfire burns near Highway 155 north of Buffalo Narrows, Sask. (Marvin Lemaigre/Facebook - image credit)
A wildfire burns near Highway 155 north of Buffalo Narrows, Sask. (Marvin Lemaigre/Facebook - image credit)

Saskatchewan officials are looking at the possibility of bringing in firefighters from across the country during what is already becoming a busy fire season.

Officials have previously said they weren't looking at taking that step, but the increase of fires in the past couple days has changed their minds.

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) said there were 123 active fires in the province during a news conference on Wednesday.

That's an increase from the 107 reported on Tuesday.

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The 357 fires recorded so far this year dwarfs the five-year average of 208. Officials said that, combined with continued hot and dry weather, is why they're upholding a provincial fire ban for at least another three to five days.

Wildfires of note

As of Wednesday afternoon, 32 fires remained unconstrained and 11 were considered to be wildfires of note.

Among them were the Lock and Klyne fires, which have resulted in evacuations.

The Lock fire has grown to 23,289 hectares and forced evacuations in the communities of St. George's Hill, Michel Village and Dillon.

Officials with the SPSA said that they are working with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council to provide food, shelter and other necessities to 48 evacuees that are currently in North Battleford.

An unspecified number of people from the communities are being housed in Lloydminister.

The Klyne fire has forced the evacuation of an unspecified number of residents of Southend.

Two other blazes, the Lunx and Mule fires, are near Stanley Mission. Firefighters are working to prevent them from threatening the town.

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There are also multiple fires that pose a risk to highways in Saskatchewan.

The Rabbit fire poses a threat to Highway 2 North while the Harding fire puts Highway 106 at risk.

In both cases, the SPSA said the biggest threat would come if the fire moves in the direction of the highways.

The smoke could then impede traffic, which would would require officials to modify traffic flow or close roads all together.

Calling in resources

The SPSA said 240 firefighting personnel and 80 other five-person crews are currently deployed around the province.

The five-person crews are all based in northern Saskatchewan communities.

The SPSA said all of the resources at its disposal are now fully engaged in firefighting efforts, which is why officials are looking for options to pull in more.

"We're going to have to provide our crews an opportunity to get a couple of days off, get rested, get refreshed before we can put them back on the line. Some of them have been working well over two or three weeks on fire activity," Steve Roberts, VP of operations for the SPSA, said.

The province hasn't made an official request for support from elsewhere yet, but have looked into what might be available.

With hot, dry weather forecast, it doesn't look like the threat of wildfires will let up in the near feature, Roberts said.

Even the prospect of some precipitation brings its own risks. Storms can bring lightning strikes, which may mean additional fires.

"We do not see any significant reprieve in the weather conditions over the next three to five days," Roberts said.

Fire ban still in effect

The provincial fire ban prohibits open fires, controlled burns and fireworks in provincial parks and Crown lands.

Roberts has said the ban will not stop fires occurring through natural means such as lightning strikes, but it will help stop fires caused by humans.

Municipalities in the province have also implemented their own fire bans in conjunction with the safety agency.

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