Northern Indigenous leaders are expressing concern about the increased potential for an extreme wildfire situation and are calling on residents to exercise caution, while enhancing protective measures.

The Prince Albert Grand Council’s Wildfire Task Force recently met to discuss the 2024 season. It’s forecasted to be unusually warm to start the season, prompting concerns there may be evacuated communities and health concerns similar to last year.

“The prospect of a warmer wildfire season coupled with diminished snowfall underscores the necessity for preventive action to ensure the well-being of our communities. The protection of our territories and our people is paramount, and we cannot afford to be reactive,” said Grand Chief Hardlotte.

The Canadian Forest Service advises that the forecasts indicate an unusually warm beginning to the 2024 wildfire season, necessitating a state of “high alert for 2024.” The severe wildfires of 2023, which resulted in major evacuations and led to significant air quality degradation, serve as a stark reminder of the ongoing impacts of climate change, as evidenced by last year’s evacuation of Fond du Lac Denesuline due to smoke hazards.

Hardlotte has called for increased vigilance and proactive strategies to protect First Nations in northern Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency said it will reinforce its defenses, while encouraging the communities to do the same.