Saskatoon fire crews have been a little busier than normal when it comes to fighting grass and brush fires.
This spring’s weather has played a major factor in the number of blazes so far this year.
Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) said grass fire season generally starts in late April or early May, but firefighters are already a few weeks deep.
“Well, we’ve noticed a little bit dry conditions here early. There’s no snow cover, low ground water and grasses and brush are dry around the city,” deputy chief Michael Robinson said.
SFD unofficial numbers state it attended 12 grass and brush fires between April 1 and April 17 compared to one in the same period last year.
Fire crews attended one fire at 71st Street on April 26 and saw it spark up again the following day.
A Global News meteorologist said it’s due to this year’s spring melt looking like more of a spring evaporation.
Peter Quinlan noted about 10 mm of precipitation was collected at the airport last April and we’ve only seen 3.5 so far this year.
“Last year we actually had one of the coldest Aprils on record. So that caused a very gradual snow melt across the area. That’s more conducive to getting the water from that snow into the ground,” he added.
Quinlan said warm winds helped evaporate the snow very quickly this year, which doesn’t give time for grass and soil to absorb moisture.
The current climate has led to several rural municipalities in the central and west central region putting fire bans in place.
That includes the Rural Municipality of Corman Park, which started its ban on April 7.
Ralston said there are a few markers that tell SFD whether conditions could be tricky for grass fires. He calls it the 30-30-30 rule.
The first 30 is for temperature. If the temperature is 30 C or warmer, that could help spark a blaze.
The second is wind speed. Any wind gusts faster than 30 km/h can help shift fires in different directions, making fighting them more difficult.
The final 30 is for relative humidity. If the relative humidity is around 30 per cent or less, it also becomes tougher to maintain a brush fire because there is less moisture in the air.
“Please be safe with any hot activities in and around the city as obviously conditions are conducive to having these fires get away from us and cause damage,” he added.
May and June are generally two of the wettest months in Saskatchewan, but Quinlan said the province could see a drier than normal spring and summer for 2021.