SPSA wildfire update stresses ‘let it burn’ policy doesn’t exist

Click to play video: 'SPSA wildfire update stresses ‘let it burn’ policy doesn’t exist'
SPSA wildfire update stresses ‘let it burn’ policy doesn’t exist
Smoke continues to drift through the province from Alberta and northern Saskatchewan. As Brody Ratcliffe tells us, the blaze is nowhere close to being put out, but the fight carries on.

Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) gave an update on the wildfire situation as flames rage across the province, with part of the message addressing some misinformation.

There are 23 active wildfires in Saskatchewan, with 183 total wildfires that have hit the province this year. The five-year average is 106.

“There is no ‘let it burn’ policy,” SPSA president Marlo Pritchard said Tuesday.

Pritchard said he wanted to reiterate that point, noting that the SPSA assesses every wildfire.

A government of Saskatchewan infographic addressed the myth, noting that some residents believe the misconception that wildfires outside of arbitrarily chosen areas are allowed to burn, regardless of the threat.

Click to play video: 'Wildfire smoke covers the Prairie skies in Saskatchewan'
Wildfire smoke covers the Prairie skies in Saskatchewan

The infographic said every wildfire is assessed, regardless of where it is in the province, and a decision is made on how to manage it.

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Pritchard said the first priority for SPSA is human life.

He added that healthy, vibrant forests are renewed by fires.

“So it makes ecological sense to allow some non-threatening fires to occur unhindered.”

The fire danger map has changed, showing areas that are now in the low-to-moderate range.

Parts of the province’s northern and southern sections are still in the high-to-extreme range, however.

Fire bans and restrictions are still in place, with SPSA saying there were 110 active rural municipality fire bans, 39 urban municipality fire bans, and 58 provincial park fire bans.

Steve Roberts, vice president of operations, said some rain is on its way, noting it could likely touch some of the fires, giving SPSA an advantage.

“Where we receive precipitation, lower temperatures and higher humidity, we will be able to make much more significant headway on some of these fires, secure portions of them,” Roberts said.

Roberts also addressed the misconceptions around the “let it burn” policy, noting wildfires are naturally occurring events, but protecting people and infrastructure is the agency’s first priority.

“There may be fires, due to their proximity and their lack of threat to public, either directly or indirectly, or infrastructure, may not be receiving full suppression response. They will be assessed, they will be monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis so they’re not left unattended.”

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He added some fires, depending on that criteria, may get more of a response from SPSA than others.

Roberts said he has been managing SPSA for 20 years, and addressed public concerns that SPSA may not be as aggressive in fighting wildfires as they have in previous years.

“Our resourcing is at or exceeding resourcing that was in existence two decades ago.”

He said aircraft are faster, they’re more efficient, and their partnerships with other countries, provinces and the military allow them to have an increased capacity.

Roberts said Canada is seeing larger and more aggressive wildfire seasons, noting that firefighters have to distribute their resources wisely.

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