Wildfire safety tips for the long weekend

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) is spreading wildfire safety tips ahead of the long weekend. -- Vlad Bagacian/pexels.com

Angela Amato

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

With some families gearing up for their first camping trip of the year and wildfire season underway, the Leader-Post has compiled a list of tips to help keep human-caused fires at bay.

According to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA), 50 per cent of wildfires in the province are caused by human activity.

Campfires and littering of cigarette butts typically come to mind when we think about hazards that can cause wildfires, but SPSA vice-president Steve Roberts says some causes aren’t so intuitive.

“There is a tendency for the public to underestimate the potential risks of starting a wildfire,” notes Roberts. “It doesn’t matter if it rained the day before yesterday. It doesn’t mean there is no risk or hazard.”

While many Saskatchewan residents may partake in leisurely ATV and off-highway riding, it’s important to avoid tall grass or brush as hot exhaust can be a fire hazard. The SPSA recommends stopping frequently to inspect your ATV for grass and debris buildup around the exhaust. Debris can often get hot and become flammable when knocked off while driving.

The SPSA also suggests that ATVs be fitted with a spark arrestor to prevent sparks from escaping, and to carry fire suppression equipment with you.

Although more commonly used around July 1, the SPSA advises people to leave firework displays to the professionals.

But, if you choose to disregard this advice, the SPSA says fireworks should be discharged a considerable distance from buildings, trees and dry grass and to never set off fireworks during windy conditions. Local fireworks regulations and fire bans should also be checked.

Roberts says they often see a small number of wildfires started by fireworks every year.

While many areas of the province are allowing campfires over the weekend, the SPSA says it’s crucial to put out the fire properly and to never leave a burning fire unattended.

When dousing a fire with water, the SPSA says you should use enough water to fully submerge the coals, and that they should be cool to the touch before you leave the site.

There are currently several fire restrictions in Saskatchewan, including the Rural Municipality of Loon Lake, Meadow Lake Provincial Park, the Rural Municipality of Wilton, and Makwa Lake.

According to the SPSA, there are fire bans in communities within the rural municipalities of Frenchman Butte, Garden River, Arborfield and Barrier Valley.

Since municipalities, provincial and national parks have the option to ban open burning in their areas, the SPSA recommends checking with local authorities to find out if there are any restrictions before you burn.

Those in violation of a provincial fire ban can face a fine of up to $500,000 a day and/or imprisonment for up to three years through the Wildfire Act.