Sask. firefighters sent to U.S. west coast blazes

Saskatchewan has sent three aircraft to fight the wildfires scorching the U.S. west coast.

The aircraft and eight staff are stationed in the state of Washington to support the crews working to contain the deadly wildfires there, said Steve Roberts, the province's executive director of wildfire management.

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Washington and Oregon requested help from the province as they fight the blazes ravaging the region.

Saskatchewan has had a slow wildfire season in comparison, despite predictions earlier this year that it would be a high-risk year.

So far, the province has recorded 125 wildfires; the five-year average is 405. Roberts said this was the lowest number of fires in roughly 10 years.

The season's only significant fire was in the Fort à la Corne forest in May. Its final area was about 40,900 hectares, while most other blazes this year were small and easily contained.

Roberts attributed the slow season to cool temperatures and high precipitation, combined with fewer people camping or travelling on the land due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The change in weather did, however, cause high water levels across North Saskatchewan. Instead of fighting fires, crews helped communities respond by building up supports and defences. As they did so, the teams continued to follow social distancing protocols, Roberts said.

With the end of fire season, he's asking hunters and farmers to take precautions to avoid any human-caused fires. The season typically sees an uptick with hunting season and an ongoing harvest, he said, asking residents to practise fire safety this fall.

"We still would hope people are being extra cautious."

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