Saskatchewan extends fire help to Alberta, but still needs resources at home
REGINA – Whatever Alberta needs, we’ll be there to help where we can. That’s the spirit of Premier Brad Wall’s message of support for the fire-ravaged province issued Thursday afternoon.
Over 80,000 people have been evacuated from the massive wildfire that swept through Fort McMurray earlier this week. On Thursday afternoon Alberta issued a provincial fire ban as the blaze spreads.
Wildfire Management (WFM) is handling all blazes along the provincial border to free up Alberta’s strained resources. WFM is also assisting with airstrikes against fire, and has already assisted with a new fire north of Fort McMurray.
Meanwhile, Emergency Management and Fire Safety (EMFS) is dispatching a team to Alberta to determine what services they need, and what Saskatchewan is able to provide.
Saskatchewan is also assessing potential locations that may be able to house evacuees.
However, Saskatchewan’s own fire risk is also high and needs to keep resources readily available.
“We are under extreme conditions similar to the risk that Alberta and British Columbia are, so we want to ensure that we have the proper resources and capacity here in case an event happens,” EMFS Deputy Commissioner Mieka Cleary explained.
On Thursday, there were 10 active wildfires in the province’s north, and nine had been contained as of Thursday morning. All are believed to be man-made.
As of May 5 there have been 113 wildfires in the province, up from 91 on the same day last year.
Climate Change a Factor?
Premier Wall is in Vancouver for the Western Premier’s Meeting. Alberta’s Premier, Rachel Notely, is not present due to the wildfire situation.
Talks were intended to revolve around trade, but emergency management has taken a much larger priority due to the situation in Alberta.
In a media conference on Thursday afternoon, BC’s Premier called for more action from provincial and federal government on a potential cause of the fires.
“Climate change has created some of the driest climates we’ve ever seen. Provinces burning out of control, not every once in a while, but more and more regularly,” BC Premier Christy Clark said.
Earlier this year wildfires raged through northern BC and caused evacuations as well.
Clark is not alone in her climate change concerns. John Pomeroy, Director for the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan, has a dire warning for the province’s north.
“The impact of climate change by every model and calculation that’s been done increases the risk of fire in the Boreal forest tremendously, and in a lot of simulations it literally ends up destroying the Boreal forest over decades,” Pomeroy said.
Pomeroy, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change, says that these simulations are becoming reality.
“We’re already seeing some evidence of this with the massive forest fire season last year, but even the year before. The Northwest Territories had one of its most severe droughts, and a massive fire season,” Pomeroy explained.
“So these are occurring almost every year in western Canada now.”Follow @davidbaxter_
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