Grass fire risk still increasing for Saskatoon Fire Department

Click to play video: 'Dry conditions persist in the west' Dry conditions persist in the west
WATCH ABOVE: As Fort McMurray burns, residents in Saskatchewan’s north brace for things to come. Ryan Kessler has a look at current conditions across the province to see how susceptible we are to wildfires this year – May 3, 2016

SASKATOON – The risk for grass fires continues to intensify, as Saskatoon and the surrounding area receives more hot and dry weather. The Saskatoon Fire Department has battled more grass fires this spring that it did all last year.

Crews extinguished a total of 35 grass fires by Tuesday, compared to 26 in 2015.

“With dry grass, even after a rain, in a matter of hours … it dries right back out again,” said Dave Bykowy, assistant chief of communications and public relations with the Saskatoon Fire Department.

READ MORE: All of Fort McMurray evacuated as wildfire intensifies

Relative humidity continues to sit around 20 per cent, while daytime highs well above 20 degrees Celsius persist.

The majority of the calls the fire department has received within city limits have been small and easy to control.

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“It’s different around the perimeter of the city. That’s where those larger, taxing fires occur where a controlled burn, or for whatever reason, a fire gets out of control,” Bykowy said.

Outright bans on open fires in Saskatoon are highly uncommon and would likely require an act by city council, Bykowy said.

However, the RM of Corman Park remains under a fire ban implemented on April 15. RM officials introduced the ban after 14 out of control, human-caused grass fires sparked up in a span of two days.

“[Since April 15], we’ve had three fire calls where the fire department has had to respond to grass fires, so the ban appears to be working and certainly we appreciate people cooperating in that regard,” said Corman Park administrator Adam Tittemore.

The fire ban means fire pits, burning barrels, controlled burns and fireworks are not permitted.

“The conditions have only gotten drier. We’ve had extremely hot, windy weather. The fire load is increasing, so we are at an extreme risk for fire and we ask that people continue to abide by the ban,” Tittemore said.

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Violators of the ban can face fines, along with the costs incurred by responding fire crews.

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