The provincial fire ban in Saskatchewan has been lifted, despite ongoing wildfires on northern parts of the province.
Recent rainfall and cooler temperatures led to the lifting of the ban, said Steve Roberts, vice-president of operations for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA).
"Because of what we're projecting — these cooler temperatures will prevail — that has prompted us to revoke the provincial fire ban," Roberts said Monday during a provincial update on the wildfires.
"There may be areas in the south where rural municipalities, cities or parks may have restrictions in place to handle local conditions."
Saskatchewan-wide, there were 172 active wildfires Monday afternoon, the majority of which were in the northern half of the province.
Roberts said "a fire ban is not predicated strictly on the number of fires." He said it also has to do with the potential of starting unwanted fires, and the issues of managing fires along with weather conditions.
While much-needed precipitation arrived across the province, it also brought lightning with it "in a large quantity," Roberts said.
"Our fire numbers are actually up, but the fire behaviour has been diminished because of the favourable conditions, higher humidity, cooler overnight temperatures, and in some cases fires did indeed receive direct precipitation."
Travel to the north still discouraged
The SPSA continues to discourage non-essential travel to the north, as several highways are either impacted or closed due to the smoke and wildfires.
Anyone who is planning to travel is encouraged to check the Highway Hotline.
"We still recommend avoiding travel to northern areas due to smoke and due to potential access restrictions, and to ensure that our firefighting efforts are not hampered by folks in the area," Roberts said.
The SPSA said it hired an additional 150 local firefighters.
"We also have been able to engage some structural fire departments from the province to assist us with protecting communities," Roberts said.
Fires of concern
Roberts said the SPSA is closely monitoring 11 wildfires posing a direct threat to neighbouring communities and highways. They include:
The Lock fire (26,107 hectares) is less than 20 kilometres from St. George's Hill, Michel Village, Dillon and Buffalo River Dene First Nation. Crews continue to work on hotspots around St. George's Hill.
The Forks fire (125 hectares) is less than 20 kilometres from Beauval threatening Highways 155, 165 and 965
The Strike fire (3,277 hectares) is north of Dorintosh and is threatening Highways 904 and 951.
The Rabbit fire (4,048 hectares) is south of La Ronge and is close to Highway 2 North.
The Harding fire (21,750 hectares) is north of Smeaton and is threatening Highway 106 and Narrow Hills Provincial Park (the south end of the park). Highway 106 is currently open with reduced speeds.
The White fire (341 hectares) is north of Candle Lake, and is near the Whelan Bay Recreation Site and Highway 963. Evacuations have been lifted for the area.
The GMB01 fire (3,854 hectares) is east of Grandmother's Bay and is less than 20 kilometres from Grandmother's Bay First Nation and Missinipe. Helicopter support is working on hotspots.
The Mule fire (588 hectares) is south of Stanley Mission and the Rapid River Dam.
The Lynx fire (2,814 hectares) is west of Stanley Mission, and is near Highway 102 and Highway 915.
The Klyne Fire (2,314 hectares) is near the communities of Southend and Peter Ballantyne First Nation. It's also threatening the Reindeer Lake Recreation Site and Highway 102.
The Forsberg fire (796 hectares) is west of Creighton and is near the Jan Lake Resort, Highway 106 and Foran Mine.
Fire count reached a 10-year-high
Saskatchewan's 2021 wildfire count is exceeding the five-year average by more than 200.
There have been 437 fires to date. The five-year average is 214, according to the public safety agency.
"This is probably one of the highest counts in the last 10 years," Roberts said. "I don't know if it's a record-breaking all time historic, but in the last 10 years, we have not seen the number of fires that we're seeing right now."