NEWS

Saskatchewan wildfires dampened by rain

07/18/2015 06:34 EDT | Updated 07/18/2016 05:59 EDT
Crews fighting wildfires in Saskatchewan's north received a boost going into Saturday, and it wasn't the kind of support that even a government could muster.

Rains in the province's north produced the moist conditions needed to help firefighters battle the blazes. 

As of 10 a.m. CT on Saturday, the number of wildfires in the area had dropped by nine to 103, with only one new active fire since Friday. 

The change resulted from moisture and rains, confirmed Duane McKay, spokesman with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations.

The added moisture helped crews on the ground put out 10 fires, McKay said.

The reduction in the number and intensity of the fires also means more evacuees can start to return home. As of Saturday, evacuation orders had been lifted for Eagle Point, Lamp Lake and Nemebin Lake.

That brings the total number of communities with full evacuation orders to 14, as of Saturday afternoon. Communities with evacuation orders partially lifted number 13.

"I suspect over the next few days we'll see a couple more communities get evacuation order release," McKay said. 

He cautioned that two areas remain in "direct fire threat": Hall Lake and Clam Crossing, both threatened by the Stowers fire, which spans 900 hectares and is not contained.  

He said crews are working in those areas to ensure they don't incur any further damage. 

Crews begin to withdraw

McKay also noted some firefighting forces are beginning to withdraw from their work, because of the slowly retreating wildfires. 

"Municipal fire services that have been supporting the communities in the La Ronge, Weyakwin and Montreal Lake areas have now been released," he said. 

In addition, "two hundred military personnel that were on the ground will be transitioned out," said Steve Roberts, executive director of wildfire management with the province's Environment Ministry. 

The favourable weather, expected scattered showers for Saturday and the work of ground crews fighting the fires have all allowed for the reduction in numbes, Roberts said. 

The reduction will leave roughly 1,400 people helping directly or indirectly to fight the northern wildfires. 

The changing conditions also mean that officials will release two air tanker planes, allowing them to return to Quebec, Roberts said.

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