Two main fires that burned in the southwest part of Saskatchewan that resulted in evacuations, deaths and the loss of a number of structures look to be mostly under control according to an update provided by government and emergency officials.
Executive Director of Wildfire Management Steve Roberts said one fire that burned near Burstall covered 30,000 hectares in size — or about the same land area as one-and-a-half Saskatoons — while another fire by Tompkins blanketed roughly 4,000 hectares.
“Both of those fires were not showing significant fire activity late yesterday afternoon and were primarily contained by natural features and roads,” Roberts told media Thursday morning.
He said crews remained in place in several communities just in case of any flare-ups.
Roberts also announced a provincial fire ban from areas south of Highway 16 to the south Saskatchewan border, including all park lands.
“Until we get the winds stabilized and those kinds of things, we will have the fire ban in place,” he said.
Animal deaths confirmed
The Ministry of Agriculture also confirmed that a number of animals, including livestock, have died in the fires. They can’t confirm numbers at this time but they are estimating the potential impact.
“We’re receiving reports that approximately 400 animals have either perished or had to be euthanized as a result of the fires,” said Grant Zalinko, executive director of the ministry’s livestock branch.
For those producers or ranchers affected, Zalinko encouraged them to contact the agriculture ministry or the provincial Farm Stress Line.
SaskPower customers in the dark
The same strong wind that helped spread those two fires also continues to leave others across the province without power. As of Thursday morning, SaskPower’s Jordan Jackle indicated 600 customers were in the dark, including 150 each in Kamsack and Sturgis, 200 in the Melfort-Wadena region, 100 in Abbey and 20 in Shaunavon.
Jackle said an estimated 100,000 customers at some point were impacted by the wind storm.
Premier: lessons to learn
Premier Brad Wall wants to ensure lessons are learned from Tuesday’s wildfires situation.
This time of year is classed as out of season so water bombers and crews members would not have been as readily available.
Wall suggested that’s something to think about for future planning.
“That issue of logistics of where they are located and when they are available and crewed, I think they are all very much part of planning for government and should be,” Wall said. “How can we perhaps allow for on the shoulder seasons, spring and fall, the availability of that option and that is what we’re going to talk about.”
Wall is thanking all those who played a role in fighting the wildfires and condolences to the family of the volunteer firefighter who lost his life.