Thick smoke help­ing con­trol wild­fires

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

The num­ber of peo­ple forced from their homes by Saskatchewan wild­fire smoke con­tin­ues to climb, but a pro­vin­cial of­fi­cial says the smoke is now so thick that it's ac­tu­ally help­ing con­trol the fires.

Steve Roberts with Saskatchewan's en­vi­ron­ment min­istry says the layer of smoke that cov­ers the north­ern part of the province has blocked out di­rect sun­light. Roberts says that's low­ered tem­per­a­tures and boosted hu­mid­ity, which means the fires are less volatile.

Of­fi­cials say they don't have an es­ti­mate of the to­tal num­ber of evac­uees, but say they're cur­rently hous­ing over 4,000 peo­ple in ho­tels and other evac­u­a­tion cen­tres in North Bat­tle­ford, Prince Al­bert, Saska­toon and Regina.

There were 110 ac­tive fires in Saskatchewan on Wed­nes­day, and of them, only about 10 were con­tained.

The smoke ham­pered the oper­a­tions of fire­fight­ing air­craft on Tues­day, and Roberts says air tankers are on standby if smoke clears and vis­i­bil­ity is safe for them to fly.

“As much as it's not good for peo­ple, be­cause the cloud layer filled with smoke and is so thick, our tem­per­a­tures are roughly 10 de­grees cooler and our hu­mid­ity is 10 to 15 per cent higher. That com­bi­na­tion means the fire ac­tiv­ity drops sig­nif­i­cantly,” Roberts ex­plained.

“It's helped us se­cure, es­pe­cially, those fires that are close to com­mu­ni­ties by putting peo­ple on the ground and get­ting some hose lines in place.”

Roberts said con­di­tions in Saskatchewan are so sus­cep­ti­ble to fires due to an un­usu­ally dry win­ter fol­lowed by an early spring.

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