The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) held a media briefing recently to provide insight on their spring outlook and the preparations that have been made for the 2022 season.
Precautions and preparations are taken each year concerning flooding, grassfires, and wildfires in the province.
Chris Clement, Executive Director of Projects and Public Relations with the SPSA, said that the spring thaw is nearly concluded in much of the province.
“The spring thaw is nearing completion in the southern and central areas of the province, and is progressing northward,” he stated. “Ice breakup has occurred on the major river systems in the province and the risk of ice jamming has now passed.”
Central Saskatchewan is seeing an average thaw for the spring season, as most areas are free of snow with only residual snow remaining.
The northern part of the province can expect to see a delayed green-up this year as a result of heavier snowpack and cooler spring temperatures.
In southern Saskatchewan, areas that have been snow free for several weeks and that were not impacted by the recent spring storm are at a greater risk of grass fires occurring until the dry and dead vegetation returns to green.
Clement added that Saskatchewan can anticipate a normal to above normal wildfire season, depending on summer weather trends and human activity.
“Typically, half of wildfires in a given year are started by humans, with lightning being the cause of the remainder,” he said. “At this time of year, we are not experiencing lightning, so any fires that start will be human caused.”
He added that this is why it is essential for all individuals to take precautions this time of year.
These precautions include pruning trees and branches, keeping your yard free of debris, floating and stirring campfire coals and always put them out completely.
In addition, if burning within four and a half kilometers of the provincial forest, please visit Sask publicsafety.ca or call 1-800-667-9660. Call 911 if you notice a wildfire or grassfire.
Protecting human life and communities is always the number one priority for the SPSA, followed closely by protecting critical public infrastructure, commercial timber, remote structures and natural resources, Clement added.
The SPSA assesses every wildfire and considers numerous factors such as the threat, firefighter safety, current and forecast weather, fire behavior and fuel types to determine how to respond.
A team is assembled of highly trained wildland firefighters with a fleet of land-based air tankers, water skimming aircraft, Bird Dog planes, other fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, and heavy equipment.
There are currently seven Bird Dog planes, five Amphibious tankers, and four land based tankers available for the team to utilize.
The agency is expecting the arrival of two new aircrafts this fall as part of a renewal initiative that began in 2005 and will be placed into service in 2023.
Clement also added that 302 seasonal staff members of the 332 employed last year have returned for the 2022 season and have already completed the majority of their training.
Fire suppression equipment has already been supplied to crews and communities throughout the province.
Flooding and severe weather
The SPSA sent out sandbags and sandbagging machines to multiple northern communities when there was a risk of flooding earlier this spring. They also sent hesco barriers, pumps, and sandbags to southern communities at risk of flooding.
The flood equipment has now been returned to the agency however it remains available to communities if needed.
Regarding severe weather systems during the 2022 season, Jeanette Krayetski, Manager of Intelligence and Situational Awareness for the SPSA, said that they are frequently working closely with meteorologists in order to stay one step ahead of the weather.
“As far as preparing for severe weather of any kind, whether it's summer tornadoes, severe windstorms, lightning storms or like we have seen this spring, where we have these winter spring storms in southern Saskatchewan is that we work very closely with our meteorologists as well as the meteorologists of Environment and Climate Change Canada,” she explained.
Through their close work with meteorologists, the SPSA can begin advanced notification and planning with their government of Saskatchewan partners and emergency services officers, as well as make contact with the communities that may be at higher risk while helping them prepare for possible conditions.
“Early warning is really the key, and that we will communicate that and distribute that amongst our partners and stakeholders, and you will see those advisories and alerts also from Environment Canada,” Krayetski added. “And any significant weather systems, those alerts will go out on Sask alert as well, in regard to tornadoes and severe storms.”
Sask alert is Saskatchewan's primary source of emergency information that is provided in real time. It allows families and individuals to protect themselves and their property.
The Sask Alert app is now available in French on iPhone and Android devices, as well as on the Sask Alert website.