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SPSA said Saskatchewan wildfires unremarkable despite national records

Saskatchewan residents have been putting up with quite a bit of smoke, and many have been displaced from their homes, but the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency said this isn't a record summer for the prairie province. File / Global News

Canada is seeing its worst wildfire season on record, but what does that look like from Saskatchewan?

Saskatchewan residents have been putting up with quite a bit of smoke, and many have been displaced from their homes, but the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency said this isn’t a record summer for the prairie province.

“We are looking at a burned area of over 1.1 million hectares,” said Steve Roberts, vice-president of operations for SPSA.

A rough look at what 11,000 km2 (1.1 million hectares) looks like for land covered. Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency
A rough look at what 11,000 km2 (1.1 million hectares) looks like for land covered. Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency

Roberts noted that this was not the highest number of hectares burned across the province, but said it was unusual to see how early the fire season got started.

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“Typically our peak season is in that July, August period and we have had some seasons go right into October.”

Canadian wildfires so far this year have burned 10 million hectares of land and counting, data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre shows.

A rough look at what 100,000 km2 (10 million hectares) of burned land would cover. Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency

The previous record was set in 1989, when 7.6 million hectares were burned.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair told reporters on July 6 that much of Canada will remain at high risk for wildfires throughout July, though in August the risk to some areas will decrease.

Blair did not have a figure to provide when it comes to the cost of the wildfire response.

Roberts said about half of Saskatchewan fires are human-caused, noting they’ve seen some other trends.

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“We are seeing a trend where we are seeing more volatility in seasons. It doesn’t mean it is always hotter, it means as we look across the country (and) there are spots that will be hotter and the demand (is) higher,” Roberts said.

“We are also seeing greater impacts of those fires because people are more cognizant and aware of wildfire smoke and how far it can travel and its impacts. So even fire that is not a direct threat, the smoke alone can cause concerns as we have seen this year.”

He said the province has managed this season without bringing in outside resources, and he anticipates it will stay this way for the rest of the year.

“Currently we anticipate that will be the case for the rest of the fire season for an average fire load. We may actually be able to loan our resources to neighbours that need them.”

— with files from Aaron D’Andrea

Click to play video: 'Firefighter dead in Northwest Territories, 2nd killed in Canada this wildfire season'
Firefighter dead in Northwest Territories, 2nd killed in Canada this wildfire season

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