Fire evac­uees cleared to head home

Cape Breton Post - - PROVINCE / CANADA -

More evac­uees were rid­ing on buses or head­ing home in their own ve­hi­cles Wed­nes­day af­ter emer­gency of­fi­cials de­ter­mined wild­fires and smoke were no longer threat­en­ing some com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern Saskatchewan.

Premier Brad Wall said about 1,000 res­i­dents would be re­turn­ing to the re­gion through­out the day and he an­tic­i­pated oth­ers would soon fol­low.

“This was an un­prece­dented evac­u­a­tion, so even­tu­ally it’ll be an un­prece­dented repa­tri­a­tion,’’ he said.

The fire sit­u­a­tion for many com­mu­ni­ties re­mained se­ri­ous, he said.

“There’s room for cau­tious op­ti­mism, but we need to re­mem­ber that any­thing can change very quickly and there’s fire very close to a great many com­mu­ni­ties.’’

About 13,000 peo­ple were forced out of their homes in at least 50 com­mu­ni­ties since evac­u­a­tions be­gan nearly there weeks ago. A higher than av­er­age num­ber of fires in the province have de­stroyed about 90 homes, most of them sea­sonal cab­ins.

Fire­fight­ers have been brought in from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, other prov­inces and the United States. Sol­diers and re­servists are also help­ing and some Saskatchewan res­i­dents are be­ing trained to join the fight. In all, about 1,700 are work­ing on the fire lines.

In re­cent days, res­i­dents from a hand­ful of small com­mu­ni­ties in the north were al­lowed to go home. But the largest con­tin­gent so far was an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

Karri Kempf with the province’s So­cial Ser­vices Min­istry listed evac­uees from Pine­house, the Red Earth Cree Na­tion and Descham­bault Lake as among the latest to get the all­clear. How­ever, she said some res­i­dents with health con­di­tions were likely to re­main in shel­ters and ho­tels in var­i­ous cities.

Evac­uees at Evraz Place in Regina were told late Tues­day that those not yet go­ing home would be moved to shel­ters fur­ther north, mak­ing it eas­ier for them to re­turn later once of­fi­cials de­ter­mined it was safe.

“There was a fair amount of re­lief and pos­i­tive feel­ings about be­ing able to join other com­mu­nity mem­bers and to be one step closer to home,’’ Kempf said.

Colin King with emer­gency man­age­ment said work­ers are look­ing at which com­mu­ni­ties re­main at risk and which have work­ing util­i­ties and road ac­cess.

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