By: The Star Phoenix
One month after evacuees from northern Saskatchewan started to return home, the province still has 47 active forest fires left to battle.
Even so, the number of forest fires is less than half the 98 reported on July 20.
“So now, we’ve fallen well below. We’ve managed to contain many of those fires working with the weather change,” Steve Roberts, executive director of wildlife management for the province’s Ministry of Environment, said on Wednesday. As many as 127 forest fires burned in northern Saskatchewan at one time, threatening 51 communities and forcing about 10,000 evacuees from their homes.
More than 2,000 people, including 850 military personnel and help from other provinces, were involved in fighting the fires.
The province is currently using between 200 and 300 of its own personnel. Although fires are burning in the La Ronge area, no communities are affected by smoke or fire, Roberts said.
As fall approaches, he expects the number of forest fires will be reduced further by the cooler weather and overnight conditions that result in morning dew, he said.
In July, Premier Brad Wall estimated fighting the fires would cost $100 million. At that time, the year-to-date number of forest fires was 648. By comparison, Saskatchewan had 235 fires in all of 2014.
It has also been a busy summer for forest fires in other parts of the country. However, Roberts said neither British Columbia nor the Northwest Territories – two places heavily affected by forest fires – requested Saskatchewan’s assistance.
The province did send two CV 580-A air tankers and a Bird Dog air tanker along with nine crew members at the request of the U.S. Forest Service to help fight fires south of the border. The group had been previously working out of Prince Albert.
So far, the crew has been involved in fighting fires in Montana and Idaho. Several other states, including California, Oregon, Washington and Indiana, are also battling fires.
Roberts said the expectation was that the crews and equipment would be in the U.S. for a week, but that time frame could be extended or shortened depending on need.
The province has six groups of aircraft and crew to fight forest fires, so lending one group is a significant contribution, he said.
“If our conditions were to drastically change and we wanted them back, we can recall those aircraft as well … That gives them a lot of capacity. Those are our most modern (and) versatile aircraft,” Roberts said.
“Things have been fairly calm, but we still have fires on the landscape … But we will take the opportunity to help our partners. They were great when we needed to call for their assistance, and we’re quite willing to help them if we can afford to do that.”
By: The Star Phoenix