Extremely dry conditions fuelling fires across Saskatchewan
Since Monday afternoon, fire crews have been working around the clock near Biggar, Sask., to contain a 15-square-kilometre grass fire.
The Saskatchewan fire commissioner Duane McKay said it’s a massive effort, with both local and provincial governments doing what they can.
“The province is trying to support them in the best way we can,” he said.” With specialised equipment, single-engine air tankers and whatever else they need.”
Roughly 50 people from the Biggar hospital and a care home have been evacuated due to heavy smoke conditions. They currently remain in Rosetown and Saskatoon for the time being.
McKay said the Biggar fire is one of approximately 25 fires that have flared up in the province due to the dry spring conditions.
‘We have yet to see a significant rain,” he said. “There is a lot of standing fuel and these consistent winds are quite dry making it very difficult situation.”
Another issue facing local fire departments is fatigue.
Warman Fire Department Chief Russ Austin explained most those fighting fires are volunteers and they do get tired.
“Especially with volunteers, after two or three days fatigue is definitely a major factor,” he said. “Trying to backfill those crews with fresh crews from other parts of the province becomes a priority.”
The fire danger rating in the southern part of the province is rated as high to extreme. McKay said the dry conditions and high winds are making firefighting especially difficult.
“In previous years, fires like this would start up,” he said. “But with the extremely dry conditions and the consistent winds, it is making it difficult to contain these in their particular areas.”
There are over 100 active municipal fire bans across the province.