Rain not enough to cause major change to wildfire situation says SPSA

A digital road sign on Highway 155 beside the Beauval Airport warning drivers of the forest fire that lies ahead. -- Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald

While firefighters welcomed the heavy rain that fell north of Prince Albert, officials from the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) say it’s not enough to cause major changes.

As of Wednesday evening, there are 25 active fires in the province, 12 of which are undergoing assessment. SPSA vice president of operations Steve Roberts said the change in the weather was welcome, but most of the rain fell too far south to have an impact.

“Most of the fires of concern received little precipitation, other than the Meyak Fire, which is now listed as contained,” Roberts told reporters during a media call Wednesday morning. “The larger fires did get improved weather, higher humidity, and light scattered showers, but the heavier rain (fell) south of those (fires) more towards the Meadow Lake, Prince Albert, (and) Hudson Bay bandwidth.

“We will still see improvements on those fires, but not large amounts of change in the short term.”

The Meyak Fire is located southwest of La Ronge and west of Hwy 165. As of Wednesday it one of four fires listed as contained.

The Shaw Fire located between Buffalo Narrows and Île-à-la-Crosse is listed as more than 133,000 hectares. Type one and two firefighters, heavy equipment, helicopters, and air tankers are all fighting the fire.

The Wistigo Fire southeast of Pinehouse is at 62,766 hectares. Type one, two, and three firefighters are on scene. Heavy equipment and helicopter support has also been deployed.

The Vermette Fire southwest of Dillon sits at 65,547 hectares. It also has type one, two, and three firefighters on scene, with support from heavy equipment and helicopters. Crews continue mop up work on the south side of the fire while assessing the west side and monitoring the bulldozer lines.

The Sharp Fire north of La Ronge sits at 9,845 hectares. It is within 20 km of Sucker River and the North Administrative District of Wadin Bay. Type one and two firefighters are one scene, with helicopter and air tanker support.

The KPIR02 south of Deschambault Lake is at 4,605 hectares. It is being resourced by type 1 firefighters, helicopter support, and air tanker support crews.

The SPSA is protecting property at three active fires.

SPSA president Marlo Pritchard said they were ending the provincial fire ban due to cooler weather and recent rainfall, but said 16 northern municipalities and provincial parks continue to be at high fire risk.

“The area north of the Churchill (River) did not get widespread rains,” Pritchard told reporters. “Northern municipalities and provincial parks in this area may potentially retain local fire and burn restrictions.”

Pritchard added that air scrubbers have now arrived in the communities of Jans Bay, Île-à-la-Crosse, Dillon, St. Georges Hill, and Buffalo Narrows, which allow residents to safely shelter in place.

Pritchard said they expect to receive 10 more air scrubbers this week, four of which will be sent to schools in and around Île-à-la-Crosse. The remaining six will be distributed as requested.

There are two highway closures in the north due to fires. Hwy 910 is closed from the junction of Hwy 165 to Besnard Lake, and Hwy 911 is closed from the Hwy 106 Junction to Deschambault Lake.

The SPSA has also advised motorists, boaters, and paddlers to avoid the areas around the Smith Fire and the McRae Fire until further notice. Pritchard said the Smith Fire is producing large amounts of smoke, creating poor visibility in the surrounding area, while the McRae Fire is large, fast moving, and located directly east of the Smith Fire.

The Smith Fire is located North of Pinehouse. It is around 129,000 hectares in size.

Travel Advisories remain in place for the Montreal River and Besnard Lake areas.

Another 20 evacuees returned home to Île-à-la-Crosse from Regina. There are still 61 evacuees remaining in Regina. There are also112 evacuees in Lloydminster. There are evacuees in North Battleford, but the SPSA did not have an updated count.

SPSA director of emergency and crisis support Joan Hrycyk said they have no further information about when other evacuees will be going home.