Bore­dom, anx­i­ety weigh on evac­uees

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Tr­isha Halkett has one wish as she spends her sec­ond week out of her north­ern Saskatchewan home be­cause of threat­en­ing wild­fires.

She would like to be back in Mon­treal Lake when her sec­ond baby is due to ar­rive next month.

“I cer­tainly hope so,’’ said Halkett, 20, pat­ting her stom­ach on a bench out­side a Prince Al­bert ho­tel, her two-year-old daugh­ter, Keirra, and hus­band Dud­ley Ross sit­ting by her side.

The fam­ily is among the more than 13,000 peo­ple who have fled as wild­fires sweep across great swaths of north­ern for­est. Mas­sive fires con­tin­ued to burn out of con­trol Fri­day as crews worked to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties from the flames.

Steve Roberts of the Wild­fire Man­age­ment Branch says one blaze near the town of La Ronge has merged with another fire and is al­most 1,000 square kilo­me­tres in size.

“For those try­ing to fig­ure out what that looks like you take the en­tire area of the city of Saska­toon — it is 5 1/2 times that size — and that is just the one sin­gle fire within two kilo­me­tres of La Ronge.’’

Another ma­jor fire was within two kilo­me­tres of the vil­lage of Pine­house, where 900 peo­ple usu­ally live.

Data posted on the Cana­dian In­ter­a­gency For­est Fire Cen­tre says wild­fires have burned al­most one mil­lion hectares in Saskatchewan so far this year.

Mon­treal Lake, about 130 kilo­me­tres north of Prince Al­bert, is nor­mally home to about 1,800 res­i­dents. Now, it’s a ghost town and about 200 Cana­dian sol­diers are push­ing through the bush try­ing to keep it safe.

A hand­ful of houses have been de­stroyed, but Ross, 24, says his fam­ily has been lucky so far.

“I was wor­ried at first that ours would go down be­cause that’s where the fire was,’’ said Ross. “It missed our house and went another way.’’

Halkett said she just wants life to re­turn to nor­mal.

“It’s bor­ing. I would prob­a­bly be out­side play­ing with my three dogs, but I’m not too sure if they’re alive or not.’’

Dorothy King Fisher is also ea­ger to leave Prince Al­bert and get back to Mon­treal Lake.

Like Halkett, she is most wor­ried about her dog named Weasel.

“It’s kind of lone­some,’’ she said. “I am kind of wor­ried. I left my lit­tle puppy at the house, but my son is look­ing af­ter it and goes there ev­ery day to feed it. I can al­ways get another house, but I can’t get the same dog.’’

Af­ter two weeks in Prince Al­bert, Henry Her­man has had enough.

He says it isn’t fire that’s the dan­ger in his home­town of La Loche — it’s the smoke.

“I’m go­ing to try and hitch­hike home,’’ he says. “I can go home and try and help out as much as I can.’’

Emer­gency Man­age­ment di­rec­tor Duane McKay ac­knowl­edges evac­uees are press­ing com­mu­nity lead­ers for per­mis­sion to re­turn, but he warns against do­ing so be­fore the fires are com­pletely un­der con­trol.

He said they would be putting them­selves and the peo­ple who would be called in to save them at risk if they got into trou­ble. The gov­ern­ment says peo­ple should stay away un­til the fires are no longer a threat, smoke doesn’t pose a health haz­ard, there is a sup­ply of potable drink­ing wa­ter and com­mu­ni­ties have ac­cess to emer­gency ser­vices.

CP PHOTO

Cpl. Kevin Deng puts out a hot spot at the re­mote Saskatchewan com­mu­nity of Mon­treal Lake on Thurs­day, July 9, 2015.

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