Ministry of environment bans camp fires

The ministry of environment released this map detailing the fireban area, which covers much of the southern forested area of Saskatchewan

By Ben Ingram

Despite a lower rate of wildfires compared to last year, the Ministry of Environment issued a fire ban in provincial parks leading up the May 24 weekend.

The fire ban area extends east-west across the province’s southern forested areas, including Meadow Lake Provincial Park, where officials battled an 800-hectare fire last week.

Mary-Anne Wihak, head of visitors services for Saskatchewan parks, confirmed the implementation of the ban last Wednesday.

“We’ll be enforcing it very strictly,” she said, adding that the fire was likely caused by an open flame or cigarette, as there had been no lightning strikes that could have caused it.

Wihak said that the ban means that visitors to Saskatchewan’s provincial parks will still be able to use cooking equipment, including propane and briquette stoves. Any open fires are forbidden for the remainder of the ban.

In terms of numbers, the amount of fires in Saskatchewan has decreased by about 20 per cent compared to the same time last year, but provincial duty officer Brent Krayetski said the ban has more to do with weather conditions.

“The fuel conditions, we’ve had the hot-dry weather here, so we’ve found that fuel conditions are very dry and flammable,” he said. “That’s why the fire ban, any kind of spark out there or open flame [could cause a fire].”

He added that wind conditions in the province have also meant the spread of fires has been quite fast.

These factors contributed to a fire danger rating across the province of ‘extreme,’ necessitating the implementation of the ban, officials say.

The danger rating had been downgraded to high last Thursday after a period of increased moisture, but was elevated back to extreme on Friday. Krayetski said the ban will remain “until we receive some significant precipitation to change our fuel moisture codes.”

A string of wildfires around the Meadow Lake area has also led to a city-imposed ban on fires, implemented before the provincial ban took effect.

Last Thursday, fire crews could be seen extinguishing a grass fire infront of PineRidge Ford, highlighting the volatile conditions visitors to provincial parks will need to take into consideration.

“We want to encourage people to remember our fire watch number, to report fires at 1-800-667-9660,” Krayetski said. “Be extra cautious out there.”

As the author of the Ministry of Environment’s daily fire reports, he said that officials rely on public reports to keep track of the fires.

Leading up to the weekend, the ministry reported that 170 personnel were available to combat and monitor the spread of fires in the province.

As many as 17 helicopters, 11 waterbombers and several bulldozers were also active in battling wildfires across the province.

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