Saskatchewan public safety agency warns of widespread smoke, haze from wildfires

·2 min read

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency says 129 wildfires were burning in the province Thursday.

Steve Roberts, vice-president of operations for the agency, says there were nine new fire starts — mostly caused by lighting — in the last 24 hours, as crews worked hard to manage already-existing fires.

"We get some contained, but we get some new ones," he said. "There was fire growth on a number of fires, but some of them were contained and did not grow because of our efforts. So we have a mix of types of behaviours and changes to those fires."

With 367 wildfires so far in 2021, the province is now more than 150 fires over its five-year average.

The agency said it was closely monitoring five wildfires that could pose a threat to communities. The largest is burning in the northwest that covers more than 233 square kilometres. Another fire is approaching a uranium mining site.

The agency said most of the province can expect smoky, hazy conditions in the days ahead.

"We monitor air quality (and) we share that information with community officials so they can make decisions on how that may impact citizens and high-risk health members in their communities," said Roberts. "That can be managed either by removing some, if they’re critical, or they may also ... shelter in place."

The agency may also help communities organize a clean air shelter.

An agency spokesperson said a medical-grade mask — which many Saskatchewan residents may have on hand due to the COVID-19 pandemic — can also help to protect people from inhaling smoke.

The agency said the province is not expected to receive much rain in the coming days, other than in the far north.

As a result, a provincial fire ban will remain in place.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2021.

Julia Peterson, The Canadian Press

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