There are currently 23 active wildfires in Saskatchewan.

Marlo Pritchard, the president and fire commissioner for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) provided the number to media on a call late Tuesday morning.

During his opening remarks, Pritchard said of the wildfires burning, five are currently being classified as not contained. He added so far this wildfire season, the province has had 183 wildfires which is well above the average of the last five years which is 106.

The SPSA said they are continuing to fight the Shaw and Vermette fires which are burning in the northwest. Pritchard said crews are also working to deal with the Sharp fire which is burning 20 kilometers from the community of Sucker River. Work is also being done to deal with wildfires around Pinehouse and Deschambault Lake.

When it comes to people forced to evacuate, SPSA is still not able to say when those people might be able to return to their communities. Pritchard said the SPSA is providing support to evacuees from the north who are currently in North Battleford, LIoydminister and Regina. Pritchard said a range of services are being offered to evacuees.

“The support includes food, clothing shelter and other services as necessary,” he said.

In total there are 165 evacuees in LIoydminister, 245 in North Battleford while 90 people are in Regina.

SPSA defends firefighting response

The province has come under criticism from some people in northern communities who believe the province is not being aggressive enough in combating wildfires before they threaten communities. In his remarks Pritchard said they do not have a ‘let it burn’ policy when it comes to wildfires. He explained the response by SPSA to a wildfire depends on a number of different factors.

“Our priorities include first and foremost of course is human life, communities, major public infrastructure, commercial forest and other values,” said Pritchard.

The SPSA’s vice president of operations Steve Roberts also spoke to media Tuesday morning. In response to a question from MBC Radio News regarding the amount of firefighters and equipment made available to combat wildfires, Roberts, who is in his 20th fire season, said there has been no reduction in terms of the number people or equipment which is available.

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

Roberts explained the equipment they have to fight forest fires today is also superior to what was available before. Specifically he said the aircraft they currently have are faster and more efficient. However, Roberts said the agency is not able to treat every fire the exact same when it comes to a firefighting response.

“Canada is seeing larger, more aggressive fire seasons and those resources have to be used efficiently as best we can,” he said.

(Top Photo Courtesy of Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency Facebook.)