Three northern communities are within 20 kilometres of wildfires in Saskatchewan, but the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency says there has been no evacuation order at this point. Vice-President of Operations, Steve Roberts, says crews are working on the fires and monitoring the situation, while keeping the communities up-to-date so decisions can be made. The Lock fire is near Dillon and Michel Village. The Stallard fire is close to Stony Rapids and Black Lake, while the Pothole fire is near Stanley Mission. Roberts doesn’t have any specifics but he notes that some people evacuated from Dillon for medical reasons because of the air quality, but that was done through the community and not the Agency.
Roberts is concerned about the weather forecast. It calls for hot and dry conditions over the weekend, followed by rain and lightning, which could mean an increase in wildfires next week.
To date, there have been 232 fires in the province this year, which is an increase of 30 from the five-year average. Roberts explains that statistics aren’t an exact picture of the situation at any given point though, because it’s more about their location and the complexity of the fires. The Stallard fire is 18 hectares, the Lock fire is 5,190 and the Pothole fire is 360 hectares. Of the 30 active fires in the province, three are contained, six have crews protecting property, six are not contained and 15 have ongoing assessment.
The Public Safety Agency’s resources haven’t topped out yet, Roberts says. There is a reserve of front-line firefighters to tackle new fire starts. As an example, on Wednesday there was a fire adjacent to Turner Lake, so aircraft and crews were diverted from a larger fire, and that blaze is now extinguished. Roberts notes that priorities can shift as needed and there are staff available to respond to new starts.
The provincial fire ban remains in place until at least Monday when it will be reviewed. That means no open burning, no prescribed fires and no fireworks on Crown land. Roberts says many communities have their own fire bans.