Lac La Ronge chief calls for more locals fighting Sask. fires

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson wants a provincial fire strategy that utilizes more people from affected areas.

Says 700 people want to help fight northern wildfires

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, in 2014. (Chief Tammy Cook-Searson)


  • 60 local firefighters trained by P.A. Grand Council.
  • Province adjusting rules for returning firefighters.

Amid stubborn, widespread forest fires in northern Saskatchewan, Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson is calling for a provincial fire strategy that utilizes more northern residents to fight fires.

The government has called in hundreds of military personnel and reservists to help, but Cook-Searson believes there are enough locals willing to help.

"We can fight this on our own," Cook-Searson said in an interview with CBC Radio. "We can come together as people from Saskatchewan."

Large swaths of the area Cook-Searson oversees as Chief have been placed under evacuation orders, including Air Ronge, La Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. 

On Saturday, the large Egg fire had merged with the Eli fire. Spanning 95,000 hectares, it was within 1.5 kilometres of La Ronge.

Through work with emergency fire safety officials, "we've been letting them know we need more of our people on the land; on the ground," she said.

"We know the land. We know the territory. This is our traditional land," she said. 

Cook-Searson noted many of the firefighters working on foot to stop the blazes live in the areas where they're fighting fires.

"They know this land. They hunt and trap here," she said.

Along with the province, the Prince Albert Grand Council has trained 60 people to fight the wildfires; thirty more people will begin training on Monday. 

By midday Monday, the provincial government reported it had begun training an additional 90 people for fire fighting, separate from the other 90 being trained jointly with the Prince Albert Grand Council. 

Trainees require four days to get prepped and put on payroll.

The chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band posted this photo on her Facebook page, and appealed for local volunteers to help fight raging wildfires. (Facebook)

According to reports, the province has loosened the rules as well, so that anyone who has taken the training in the past can pick up firefighting again. He or she would only need to retake a fitness test. 

Cook-Searson knows residents and local people want to help, she said, based on responses she received from an appeal she issued last week.

When emergency management and fire safety officials gave her the go-ahead to put out a call for 250 firefighters, 700 people responded, she said. 

"People want to work. They want to help."

"Northern and Saskatchewan people should come together," she added.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.