Saskatchewan blanketed by heavy smoke

So far this year, there have been over 160 wildfires in Saskatchewan, which is more than double the number usually seen by mid-May. 

As much of the province sits under a smoky haze and air quality alerts due to wildfire smoke, and  hundreds of northern Saskatchewan residents have been forced to flee their communities, Saskatchewan has activated its Provincial Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate its provincial wildfire response.

The PEOC helps to coordinate where emergency resources are gathered and deployed, and can ask for support from other national, provincial and territorial agencies if Saskatchewan’s own firefighting services need help to bring the fires under control. 

So far this year, there have been over 160 wildfires in the province, which is more than double the number usually seen by mid-May. 

On Tuesday, with dozens of wildfires burning the province issued a fire ban for Crown lands and provincial parks north of Highway 16 as well as the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District. This ban includes all open fires, controlled burns and fireworks.

“While many people are looking forward to the long weekend, the decision to implement a fire ban is necessary in order to protect lives, communities, major infrastructure and resources from wildfire,”  said SPSA president and fire commissioner Marlo Pritchard. 

Local, independent, in-depth.

Our Prairie stories.

With many northern roads and highways closed due to the fires, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) is escorting delivery trucks full of food and fuel to northern communities, who would otherwise be cut off from supplies. 

“The SPSA is well positioned, through the establishment of the PEOC and its highly trained and dedicated staff, to respond to the wildfire situation, assist communities with their responses and help with emergency crisis support to evacuees,” Pritchard said. 

number of northern Saskatchewan communities — including Ile-a-la-Crosse, La Loche and Buffalo Narrows — have issued evacuation orders, either for all residents or for specific vulnerable populations including elderly adults, pregnant and disabled residents and families with young children.

Hundreds of those who have left their communities are sheltering in Meadow Lake, North Battleford and Regina. For over 2500 people remaining in the most affected northern communities, the wildfires have also led to widespread power outages. 

Bryan Chartrand, SPSA’s executive director of land operations, says that — while there have been some lightning strikes in the north, which could have caused fires — “it’s easy to say that a large proportion of the fires that we’re seeing have been human-caused.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, eight of the wildfires currently burning in the province were contained, 13 were under ongoing assessment, one was being managed with a focus on protecting property and six were not contained, and expected to grow in size. 

Wide swathes of the province are also blanketed by heavy, intense wildfire smoke. Saskatchewan residents were advised Wednesday to reduce their exposure to the smoke, with many cities experiencing the worst measurable air quality.

As of 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Saskatoon, Regina, Estevan, Prince Albert and Swift Current were among the communities under special air quality statements with air quality health index (AQHI) values of 10+ or “very high risk.” Environment Canada said a cold front moving southwards through southern Saskatchewan is concentrating forest fire smoke from wildfires. It’s expected that, as the front progresses, it will drag a narrow band of thicker smoke through the remaining southeastern corner of the province.

As of Wednesday, communities throughout the north — including La Ronge, Hall Lake, Sucker River and Grandmother’s Bay — were waiting for the delivery of air scrubbers and setting up band halls and community centres for residents to come and breathe clean air.

Northern schools, including Gordon Denny Community School in La Ronge, said they were “closely monitoring the air quality advisories” to decide whether children would be allowed to play outside at recess. 

This story was originally published in the Saskatoon StarPhoenixIt is republished under a Creative Commons license as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

Our Prairie stories matter too.

The Flatlander takes a closer look at the stories that unite us, and make us unique, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.


Will you help us tell our stories?


Help us raise $3,600 so we can bring you more in-depth local stories from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Life on the Prairies


Stories about the Prairies, from the Prairies.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top