Wet weather eases Saskatchewan wildfire concerns as does year-round mitigation

It can be both a blessing and a curse.

Rainfall in Lampman, Sask., and surrounding areas on Thursday has prompted the province to deploy the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) to assess the damage caused by a major downpour.

Communities in the southeast and Rosetown area affected by large amounts of rain this past weekend are also encouraged to contact PDAP with any questions they may have.

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    In Saskatoon, rainfall amounts are still slightly below normal but a far cry from what we experienced last year.

    “Last year in Saskatoon, there was only 14 millimetres of precipitation through May and June and that’s the lowest I think on record for that time period so it was really, really dry,” said John Paul Cragg, an Environment Canada meteorologist.

    “This year, we’re six times that amount.”

    In 2015, Saskatoon slowly sizzled it’s way into the history books. It was the driest May on record and June was the fifth driest ever recorded.

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    According to Cragg, those rainfalls would come in July and August and says it’s hard to forecast what we can expect for the rest of this summer.

    “Saskatchewan is a very dry place, all in all, but with one thunderstorm you can receive 100 to 150 millimetres of precipitation, a third of your yearly precipitation amount in one storm.”

    Approximately 15 millimetres of rain can ward off wildfires for a week in regions most at risk in the province and it appears any amount of precipitation is only helping to assist fire crews in northern Saskatchewan as long they’re not accompanied by lightning.

    “We had 264 wildfires to date in the province compared to 477 fires last year at this time,” said Owen Price, wildfire prevention and mitigation specialist with the Ministry of Environment.

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    While precipitation plays a key role so does education, said Price.

    “Typically, in the province over half of our fires are human caused fires so we like to get that message out.”

    In 2004, 104 Saskatchewan communities were assessed for wildfire threat potential. Approximately 59 to 61 per cent of those were rated high to extreme and they’ve been working with wildfire officials every since.

    “These are things that are unfortunate but if they’re well prepared it can make the event go a little more smoother.”

    According to Price, crews right now are at the ready for fire starts but by fall they will turn their focus to vegetation management.

    “We reduce any of the ground fuels, any of the dead and downed trees, standing dead.”

    Crews also thin tree lines to keep fires from spreading into a community.

    “If we can get the fire to change its fire behavior and reduce it by going to the surface then our crews are more successful in managing and extinguishing these fires.”

    For more information on wildfire management, visit the province’s website.

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