Saskatchewan remains at risk to wildfires, although officials note that — so far this season — things are under control or contained.
During a briefing with news media Friday, officials noted that there have been 117 fires so far this year, compared with 92 by the same time a year ago.
They said there were dealing with seven active fires and all were contained and not were especially large nor were any near any communities.
“Wildfire hazards do remain high in the province,” Mieka Cleary, with emergency management and fire safety, said. “With the exception of the northeast portion of the province and the Cypress Hills area.”
While there is no province-wide ban on fires, there are limits on the types of fires that can be used in parks (no open-pit fires) and 87 municipalities in south and central Saskatchewan have imposed fire bans in place.
Saskatchewan’s forest fire protection branch has sent a small contingent to Alberta, to help that province battle wildfires in the Fort McMurray area.
Regina not at risk
As for whether or not a devastating fire could hit an urban area, like Regina, officials said the city is well-protected.
“With our prairie and our cultivated areas and the city — with their irrigation systems, lawns and such — the risk is minimal at best,” Randy Ryba, from the Regina Fire Department, said. “If we do have a prairie fire or a wildfire, we have certainly the resources to combat that before it would ever get to the city.”
Health officials in the province were also advising people to take precautions as smoke from forest fires in Alberta spreads across Saskatchewan.
Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab noted the smoke can cause increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath.
People with lung and heart conditions, older adults and seniors are particularly at risk.
Shahab said healthy people typically don’t experience symptoms, but should reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities if smoke levels are high.
Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement as winds spread smoke from the wildfires in northeastern Alberta into portions of western Saskatchewan.
It says high levels of particulate may persist until the fire is put out or controlled.