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Saskatoon Fire Department fights controlled burn that got out of control in Corman Park

On Monday afternoon, the Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) received a report of a fire being out of control and a large area of grass on fire 10 miles south of Saskatoon on Highway 219. File / Global News

The Meewasin Valley Authority said the Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) received a report of a fire that was out of control and a large area of grass was on fire 10 miles south of Saskatoon, on Highway 219 at the entrance to Beaver Creek, on Monday afternoon.

The City of Saskatoon said SFD received a report of the fire around 1 p.m., and that one fire engine, brush truck and tanker unit were dispatched to Corman Park.

Upon arrival, fire crews requested SFD’s additional brush truck and tanker unit to assist a “football field” sized fire that was threatening structures.

Fire crews then made it their priority to protect nearby structures by extinguishing and pushing the fire away from the buildings.

Read more: Meewasin consultations underway in pursuit of national urban park creation for Saskatoon

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The grass fire was brought under control around 1:30 p.m. and a brush truck remained on scene to extinguish hot spots, according to the city.

In a press release, the authority said it did a perimeter check of the conservation area and no damage within 200m was found.

It added the fire was not connected to Beaver Creek Conservation Area and was not part of the Meewasin Prescribed Fire Program. As of the time of writing, it was not clear who started the “controlled burn.”

The authority stated any fires conducted by Meewasin require a permit through the SFD, including a plan detailing where, when and how the burn will be conducted. Conditions to be considered include wind speed, wind direction, days since precipitation, fuel moisture and relative humidity among other factors.

“Meewasin’s prescribed fires are all planned and supervised by an experienced fire boss with assistance from trained staff and volunteers. The weather conditions on April 18, would have not met Meewasin’s safety criteria,” the release reads.

The release also notes that when Meewasin conducts prescribed fires, the process takes months, in some cases years, to plan, prepare and carry out.

The process involves waiting for the best time for favourable weather conditions to meet the very specific prescription for the burn.

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“The prescribed fire season each spring and fall tends to be quite short, so we need to take action when we can,” explained Meewasin’s Resource Management Officer, Renny Grilz in the release.

“Weather at this time of year and the non-green make a perfect mix of conditions for burning safely. Ideal conditions for prescribed fires are moderate humidity, lower temperatures and low winds from a consistent direction to blow smoke away from neighbourhoods and key roads,” the officer added.

Read more: Wildfire smoke having an impact on Saskatoon events

Meewasin also directs another program, which is entirely focused on training and procedures surrounding the use of prescribed fire called the Canadian Prairies Prescribed Fire Exchange.

The program offers a 15-hour course that can be taken by anyone and helps landowners, staff and volunteers to learn more about how to safely use fire as a positive land management tool. An online version is currently being worked on.

Meewasin says prescribed fires are part of the authority’s overall resource management plan to conserve natural areas, the native plants and animals that make their homes there.

“Less natural fires have led to a loss of grassland ecosystems, a loss of suitable habitat, and a decrease in plant and animal biodiversity,” stated the release.

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“Prescribed fire and grazing are both natural processes that Meewasin uses to decrease the build-up of fuel that leads to uncontrollable wildfires.”

The release explains that dead vegetation, which is the fuel, can easily catch fire naturally or by human interaction.

According to the authority, there are 67 square kilometers of land and over 105 km of established trail, which has seen up to 2.24 million trail visits per year in the Meewasin Valley.

The area also features sites that help people to connect to nature through experiences, such as Beaver Creek Conservation Area, the Northeast Swale, Saskatoon Natural Grasslands, the River Landing Spray Area, and the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink @Nutrien Plaza.

Meewasin is a non-profit organization that relies on donations and volunteers for sustainability. To learn more, visit www.meewasin.com.

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Residents can also learn more about Canadian Prairies Prescribed Fire Exchange at www.grasslandfire.ca.

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