REGINA — The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency says the number of wildfires raging in the province continues to increase as it enters its second week of battling various blazes.
Steve Roberts, vice-president of operations for the agency, said firefighters are doubling down on their efforts — particularly in northern Saskatchewan as the fire spills onto highways in the area.
He said there were 137 active wildfires in the province Friday, which was eight more than Thursday. A total of 382 wildfires have hit Saskatchewan so far this year — 170 more than the province's five-year average.
"The intention is to curtail non-essential travel to the north," Roberts said. "Many highways in the northern part of the province will be impacted directly by fire or by smoky conditions."
He said the fires are driven by windy weather, and hot and dry temperatures.
The public agency said it is supporting 63 people who were evacuated from the city of North Battleford in Saskatchewan.
Roberts said there are nine communities and their surroundings affected by the fires, but rain in the forecast over the weekend could reduce some wildfires.
"At this point we do not believe those to be significant fire-ending events, but we are preparing to ramp up to get crews on the line, take advantage of any break in conditions."
Saskatchewan has hired some structural firefighters since the wildfires began about eight days ago, Roberts said.
"These structural firefighters are basically patrolling communities … to make sure no fire starts as we fight."
The agency has also put up 129 sprinklers in various communities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2021.