As smoke continues to blanket Saskatchewan, 108 wildfires are still burning.
It’s the most-complicated fire season the provincial government has seen in decades with large fires spreading out and wrapping around communities. An air-quality alert covered the entire province on Tuesday.
The largest fire burning on Tuesday is the Egg fire, in the La Ronge area, which is about four times the size of Prince Albert.
While crews are putting out fires, new blazes are starting which is making firefighting efforts very difficult.
“We did declare 19 fires out as of this morning but of course we got another 11 new fires on top of that,” Scott Wasylenchuk, provincial fire centre manager, said.
While smoke levels have improved since Monday, the fire situation in northern Saskatchewan has not.
Just over 3,000 people have been evacuated and the government expects that number to grow. There are 914 evacuees in Saskatoon, 665 in Regina, 1,262 in Prince Albert and 192 in North Battleford, as of Tuesday.
What is needed now is a change in weather to help battle the flames, which is not in the forecast. No rain and calm winds are expected over the next couple of days.
The heavy smoke, which is coming from fires in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Alaska and Northwest Territories, is delaying some aircrafts. The good news is that smoke levels are about half of what they were on Monday.
The winds have dropped off but smoke is still spreading and blowing as far south as Tennessee. The haze has already moved through North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, according to Associated Press.
Matt Hildreth in Lachwood, Iowa says the smoke has reached his neighbourhood.
He woke up Monday morning unaware of the fires raging in Saskatchewan.
“The hour before sunset, when everything is extra golden – that’s kind of what it looked like all day … In the afternoon it was pretty thick, it almost felt like a smog, or a fog,” Hildreth said.
More than 500 people are fighting fires on the line in Saskatchewan on Tuesday, including 41 people from Ontario. A total of about 700 people are working on the front line and behind the scene.
Air tankers from Newfoundland and 40 people from eastern Canada are on the way to help fight the fires and the province is considering importing more people.
“This is a western Canada problem so it is putting stress on the whole nation to supply resources to western Canada,” Wasylenchuk said.
The vast majority of La Loche has been evacuated. A fire about five kilometres east of the community is burning about 4,500 hectares – roughly the size of Moose Jaw.
There have not been any major injuries reported to the province.
The Highway Hotline is not advising travel to fire-affected areas.
There have been 522 fires in Saskatchewan this year so far; 150 is normal for this time of year.
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