Dry conditions not helping forest fire situation

Dry conditions across Saskatchewan continue to make it difficult for the province to get an upper hand on the forest fire situation.

Some 19 wildfires were reported as burning across Saskatchewan as of Monday morning.  

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By Tuesday, there had been slight progress down to 18 fires.

Officials briefed reporters on the situation in a conference call Monday. They confirmed that the recent hot weather and lack of moisture has made for a high-risk situation across the province.

Duane McKay, emergency management director, said the “province is currently experiencing a significant fire risk that is pretty much involving all of the province, from north to south.”

He said they’ve seen a “significant increase in fire starts” and although this spring has been dry already, “we haven’t seen the light spring rains that green up the grasses and the forest. Because of that, the fire conditions have been bad for the spring. However, in the last few days we’ve seen that sort of come together across the province.”  

McKay said some small areas of the southeast have a “moderate” fire risk, but the rest of the province is in a “very high extreme fire risk.”

Most of the fires, he said, have been “man-caused.” He did express concern, however, of the potential for lightning strikes to spark fires if storms develop.

Curtis Lee of the ministry of environment noted Monday that to date there had been 224 fires, compared to 125 on the same date in 2014.

He noted that in the previous 24 hours 17 wildfires had been extinguished, but there were 11 new fires.  

Among the fires most closely impacting the Northwest region had been the Divide fire northwest of Turtle Lake.

That fire was reported May 21 and was 559 hectares.

 “We are getting a good handle on that fire,” Lee said. While he stopped short of saying it was contained he did say “we’ve made very good progress on it."  

The biggest fire, though, is called the David fire and is located close to La Loche near the community of Garson.

As of Monday it was listed at 20,300 hectares, Lee said. Crews were continuing to work that fire, and there was heavy equipment there, but it was “certainly not contained yet,” he said.

Also of interest is a human-caused Torch fire, located close to White Fox. The fire started May 22 and some 23 people had been evacuated. That fire was “certainly not contained” yet, Lee noted, though there was progress reported.   

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