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Roads reopen, fire danger sees slight dip but blazes keep burning

Both Manitoba Highway 10 and Saskatchewan Highway 106 - the Hanson Lake Road – are fully open after partial closures earlier this week and fire danger is down.

Both Manitoba Highway 10 and Saskatchewan Highway 106 - the Hanson Lake Road – are fully open after partial closures earlier this week and fire danger is down.

Highway 106 was closed off in at least two areas due to nearby forest fires, including police blockades at the junction with Highway 135 - the road to Pelican Narrows and Sandy Bay. The blockades were officially put in place July 16, but as of July 19, the road had fully reopened and construction along the road had resumed.

A fire that began north of Highway 106 jumped the highway, causing part of the closure. The Forsberg fire, which reached about 800 hectares as of July 20, was burning on both sides of the road. The fire was first reported July 15 after a lightning strike and is currently considered to be "not contained" by the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA). Several other fires are burning in the area, including the Pond fire, which jumped over the gravel road between Highway 106 and La Ronge and the Wapa fire, which is burning south of Wapawekka Lake. Both fires are still burning as of July 19 - the Pond fire is considered by SPSA to be "ongoing assessment” and the Wapa fire is considered to be “protecting values”.

The area north of Smeaton near Narrow Hills Provincial Park was under threat from the Harding fire, which has grown to almost 22,000 hectares as of July 19 and is growing toward the park's southern tip. Smoke in the area is still high and an advisory is still in effect for the area.

Residents in several northern Saskatchewan communities, mostly in central and western areas - Dillon, Grandmothers' Bay and Southend - have all been evacuated from their home regions, along with people at the Whelan Lake area north of Candle Lake. Crews with SaskTel and SaskPower are working to restore services to other communities affected by the fires, with some power and phone lines and poles falling victim to the flames. Non-essential travel to the north was warned against by provincial fire officials.

Manitoba Highway 10 was briefly blocked off by RCMP and conservation officers July 15 when a forest fire was reported by Neso Lake, near the highway. Traffic began to be allowed through after a delay of about 90 minutes.

The next day, the fire began to flare up again, with more water bombers, ground crews and helicopters used to end the blaze, but as of July 19, the fire was considered to be “under control” by Manitoba Conservation and Climate. Highway 10 is currently open as of July 20, though smoke and heat advisories have been in effect for some northern portions of the road.

Fire danger in both provinces has gone down after cooler weather and rain. Most of northern Saskatchewan is under a “moderate” fire danger as of July 20, while Manitoba’s readings vary. The area around Flin Flon, as of July 20, has a low to moderate risk of man-caused potential ignition, a high risk of lightning potential ignition, moderate reading for mop-up difficulty and a low risk of head fire rate of spread. There is also a low to moderate reading for suppression difficulty of possible fires.


Nearby blazes

The two closest large fires to Denare Beach and Flin Flon are still burning as of July 20, but each is still far from the communities. The Alir fire, located on the west shore of Amisk Lake near Muskeg Bay, has grown to 5.456 hectares in size as of July 20. The SPSA has the fire currently marked as "protecting values", meaning the fire is still active and efforts are underway to protect cabins, infrastructure and places of historical significance in the area. The burn has continued toward the north, still along the west shore of the lake.

The Fitz fire, located on Cotteral Lake northwest of Flin Flon, is 68 hectares in size and still considered to be “not contained” by the SPSA. That fire was first reported July 16 and is thought to be caused by a lightning strike.

Meanwhile, a similarly sized fire is continuing to burn north of Flin Flon, around Kississing Lake. The WE038 fire has reached 10,939 hectares in size as of July 20 and is still considered to be "out of control" over a week after it was first noticed. At its nearest point, the fire is about 30 kilometres away from Flin Flon and several large lakes, particularly Kisseynew Lake, stand between it and Flin Flon. The WE062 fire sits near Sherridon at 247 hectares and is also considered “out of control”.

No property damage or injuries connected to either fire have been announced.

Both Manitoba and Saskatchewan have reported an unusually high number of fires this year after weeks of hot weather and little rain. Saskatchewan has already reported 439 forest fires this year, almost twice as many as the province’s five-year average. A total of 168 fires remain burning as of July 20, with almost all of those fires burning in the north. Twenty-two of the fires are listed by SPSA as “not contained”.

In Manitoba, 310 total fires have been reported, 130 of which are still active as of July 20.