Saskatchewan

Fire risk map shows blue (low) in Alberta, red (high) for Sask.

The latest information from Natural Resources Canada shows a big change in the risk for fire: Alberta goes blue and Saskatchewan has a lot of red.

Saskatchewan has been dry, but rain is in the forecast

Blue denotes a low risk, red is high. (Canadian Wildland Fire Information System)
Huge columns of smoke rise up from fires in the Fort McMurray area. The image was taken Tuesday with a NASA satellite. (NASA/Canadian Press)
The latest information from Natural Resources Canada shows a big change in the risk for wildfire: Alberta goes blue and Saskatchewan has a lot of red.

The data is compiled and presented as part of the federal ministry's Canadian Wildland Fire Information System.

While the risk for wildfire has fallen in Alberta, crews are still battling a fire dubbed "the beast," which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes. The fire, in the Fort McMurray area, sits at 504,443 hectares — seven times the size of Edmonton. This includes 741 hectares in Saskatchewan. 

Plans are underway to have some evacuees return home as early as Wednesday.

People in Saskatchewan have been watching the fire with interest, especially in recent days when the burning extended into the northwest corner of the province.

When that happened on the evening of May 18, Saskatchewan officials said helicopters and crews were on the scene in addition to providing assistance on the eastern flank of the Fort McMurray fire.

Saskatchewan crews have also been tending to other fires and monitoring potential trouble spots across the province.

Rain makes a difference

Much depends on the weather.

"Rain will have to be a factor," Steve Roberts, from the province's environment ministry, said in the latest briefing on the fire situation. "There is likely not enough resources available to put out a fire of such a large size if weather does not co-operate."

Officials noted that while the Alberta fire has been unpredictable, the Saskatchewan community of La Loche is not in as much danger as it was last year, because it is beside a lake and there is lots of previously burned forest nearby, limiting fuel for a wildfire.

Smoke flooded the skies of La Loche, Sask., earlier this week. (Submitted to CBC)
Smoke from the fire has also been affecting life in Saskatchewan with Environment Canada having issued a number of cautionary statements about air quality in recent days.

On Friday, Saskatchewan's wildfire management branch noted that easterly winds were expected to develop, which will help move smoke away from Saskatchewan.

The latest forecast from Environment Canada says there is a 30 to 40 per cent chance of rain for areas of northwest Saskatchewan on Monday night.