Saskatchewan has jumped straight from flooding into fire season this spring.
The fire department at Meadow Lake, in the province’s northwest, stamped out a small grass fire on Monday that started in the ditch of a side road between two fields.
“It was kind of causing some smoke conditions on the highway. That was the biggest concern, (the) hazard to traffic,” said Neil Marsh, fire chief for the city of Meadow Lake. No property was lost, he added.
The Meadow Lake area isn’t drier than normal this spring, though. “We often get that week or two in between when the snow’s gone and before it greens up (when) fires happen, I guess,” Marsh said.
Grass fires around province
Brent Krayetski, provincial wildland fire co-ordinator in Saskatchewan, said there were seven contained fires scattered around the province as of Wedensday. Most of them are grass fires.
“We had good moisture last year. Lots of grass grew well. There’s just lots of fuel out there so people are burning it off,” Krayetski said. A late spring condensed the burning time, so people began burning as soon as the snow went, he added.
WeatherFarm is forecasting showers late this week and into the weekend for much of Saskatchewan. Meadow Lake should see scattered showers on Friday, and there is a 30 per cent chance of precipitation on Saturday.
Reduce fire risk
Both the city and rural municipality of Meadow Lake have fire bans now, Marsh said — and even when there isn’t a fire ban, people should be careful when doing controlled burns.
People planning to burn within 3.5 km of provincial forest land need to apply for a provincial burning permit between April 1 and the end of October, Krayetski added.
Some rural municipalities require landowners to get permits for controlled burns as well. Residents should also call their local fire chiefs and emergency dispatch before burning so the fire department doesn’t respond to a call.
Fire Smart Canada has a program to help rural landowners fireproof their properties, Marsh said. The website includes forms to evaluate a property’s fire risk.
Using non-combustible roofing material, cleaning gutters and siding buildings with metal or stucco are a few fire-proofing tips from the site.
Krayetski noted the majority of rural fires in Saskatchewan are grass fires.
“If you keep your pastures down around your yards, that fire doesn’t have the velocity or that fuel to burn. So you don’t have that intense of a fire coming towards your structures or buildings,” he said.
— Lisa Guenther is a field editor for Grainews at Livelong, Sask. Follow her @LtoG on Twitter.