Families still out of homes after northern Sask. forest fires
Montreal Lake Cree Nation estimates fire damage between $3-$6 million
Massive forest fires in northern Saskatchewan last summer have meant several families on the Montreal Lake Cree Nation are still out of their homes.
The fires, which burned across much of the north last summer, came dangerously close to the first nation, burning a number of houses on the outskirts of the reserve. There were 44 people in Montreal Lake left without permanent homes.
While many families either stayed with relatives, or were placed in other homes on the reserve, 10 people had to be moved to apartments in Prince Albert, Sask. approximately 100 kilometres south of the First Nation.
"They seem to be adjusting pretty well," said Montreal Lake Chief Edward Henderson. "They're adjusting great. Just lonesome for home, that's about it."
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Henderson said rebuilding efforts were delayed mainly by last year's federal election. Money from the federal government just came in this week. It's not clear when the new houses will be completed, but Chief Henderson hopes it will only take a few more months.
"Hopefully this season," he said. "We've got the money sitting in the bank now, and it'll be a matter of housing getting their tenders and finding their locations."
The fires caused a massive amount of damage. Henderson estimates the total amount to be between $3 million and $6 million worth of damage to the community.
Saskatchewan's Ministry of Environment is already getting ready for this year's wildfire season. Wildfire crews will be recalled two weeks earlier than usual, and aircraft will be brought into service earlier.
However, Montreal Lake isn't concerned about this year. The fires burned around one square kilometre worth of forest all around the community, leaving few trees standing.
"Fires will not be a threat to us for the next five to 10 years, until we get the growth back," he said. "We're trying to get an aerial photo of our community, so our membership will realize that if you have a house that has a few trees left, you're blessed to have those trees there."
About 13,000 people, including most of the community of Montreal Lake, were forced from their homes by last summer's fires.