Fam­i­lies flee fires for shel­ter in city

Team ready to pro­vide food, beds to hun­dreds from Pel­i­can Nar­rows

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - BETTY ANN ADAM

The smoke from four fires sur­round­ing Pel­i­can Lake was so thick on Tues­day morn­ing that it burned Mary Jane Michel’s nose and throat and she couldn’t see the trees on the other side of the lake.

The pre­vi­ous day’s sense of calm evap­o­rated with the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing air qual­ity when peo­ple in the com­mu­nity of al­most 2,000 re­ceived word that the el­derly, young and frail and their fam­i­lies would be bused to Saska­toon.

Michel, her el­derly fa­ther, her daugh­ter and two small grand­chil­dren were safe on one of the buses when she wrote in Face­book mes­sages to a StarPhoenix reporter that her stress was still high as she thought of other fam­ily mem­bers still at home.

She was among the 450 to 500 peo­ple from the north­east Saskatchewan com­mu­nity who were bound for Saska­toon’s Henk Ruys Soc­cer Cen­tre, where crews worked Tues­day to set up cots and food ser­vice for them.

On Tues­day night, Pel­i­can Nar­rows chief and coun­cil ex­tended the evac­u­a­tion or­der to in­clude those with any med­i­cal con­di­tion as the smoke wors­ened.

A Saska­toon emer­gency re­sponse team re­ceived warn­ing Mon­day night that a fire, dubbed the Gran­ite, could block the road into the com­mu­nity lo­cated about 525 kilo­me­tres north­east of Saska­toon and that its bil­low­ing clouds of smoke could en­dan­ger vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, said Deanna Valen­tine, pro­vin­cial co-or­di­na­tor for Emer­gency So­cial Ser­vices (ESS).

So­cial Ser­vices, the health min­istry, the Red Cross, the Sal­va­tion Army, and City of Saska­toon re­ceived con­fir­ma­tion in the morn­ing and swung into ac­tion. The Red Cross, ex­perts in dis­as­ter man­age­ment, will pro­vide the di­rect ser­vices at the shel­ter, along with pro­vin­cial staff at the site, Valen­tine said.

Evac­uees will be housed in three soc­cer pitches equipped with green can­vas cots set up in lines. Food ser­vice equip­ment is set up in the fourth soc­cer pitch. The soc­cer cen­tre can hold 600 peo­ple. An­other 200 could stay at the Cosmo Civic Cen­tre.

Peo­ple with heath is­sues will stay in ho­tels.

ESS is also sup­port­ing 12 res­i­dents of Birch Portage at a ho­tel in Prince Al­bert.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, 38 wild­fires are burn­ing in Saskatchewan, in­clud­ing two — the Gran­ite and the Wilkins — that are not yet con­tained.

The Gran­ite, which be­gan four weeks ago, is about 18 kilo­me­tres south­east of Pel­i­can Nar­rows and cov­ers more than 43,835 hectares. It has de­stroyed one re­mote prop­erty. About 75 peo­ple are in­volved in fight­ing it, us­ing four doz­ers and 10 he­li­copters.

An­other 64 peo­ple are work­ing to con­trol the 6,100 hectare Wilkins fire, which is about 16 kms south of the com­mu­nity; 22 are fight­ing the Pre­ston blaze to the north and an un­spec­i­fied num­ber are work­ing the Flo fire south­east of the town.

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