Evacuees from Little Grand Rapids say they're excited, surprised to be going home

On Saturday, one month to the day after Little Grand Rapids was evacuated, people started to return home to their community — unsure of what they would find, but relieved to be finally going home.

After a month away from home, people from Little Grand Rapids started returning to their community Saturday

People prepared to fly home to Little Grand Rapids on Saturday. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

On Saturday, one month to the day after Little Grand Rapids was evacuated, people started to return home to the Manitoba community — many unsure of what they would find, but relieved to finally be going home nevertheless. 

"I'm just glad to go home and sleep in my own bed. It's been kinda lonesome in the city. I want to go home," said Terry Boushie.

He said he was surprised when he found out he would be heading back on Saturday, but is anxious to get back and start getting his life back together.

Little Grand Rapids band Coun. Clinton Keeper made the announcement the evacuees would be heading home at a benefit concert on Thursday, where musicians performed in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day.

"It's going to be about 300 [people going home] a day, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Over a course of three days, they will be flown back to Little Grand Rapids," he said.

Terry Boushie says he's looking forward to sleeping in his own bed. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

On May 23 a wildfire, estimated to be half the size of Winnipeg, was bearing down on Little Grand Rapids, about 265 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, and nearby Pauingassi First Nation.

The Red Cross and Canadian Armed Forces helped nearly 1,000 people from Little Grand Rapids come to Winnipeg, where they've been living in hotels ever since.

More than 400 others were evacuated from Pauingassi. They're scheduled to return home Monday.

"I miss my house and everything. Probably … my home is a disaster, because my fridge, power's out," Boushie said at the Winnipeg airport, explaining he had a large store of fish in his freezer. 

Last week, the Red Cross flew new freezers to Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nation to replace the ones left behind. Officials said because power was cut off to the communities during the fire, the frozen food in the old freezers was rotten and many of the units were leaking chemicals.

Donovan Boushie said he was excited and happy to go back home. Donovan said the time in Winnipeg "was all right, not too bad, [but] it's kinda not safe."

Katrina Duck said she missed the views of the lake in Little Grand Rapids, which she described as "beautiful."

"[I] kinda miss home, family, being around people.... I kinda felt homesick."

Katrina Duck says she's looking forward to getting back to the beautiful view of the lake from Little Grand Rapids. (Justin Fraser)

Roderick Mayham has lived in Little Grand Rapids for 10 years. He's scheduled to go back Sunday and said he's "relieved to get out. Get back and see what the real damage is out there."

Mayham explained his house is close to the edge of the community and while he's been told his is safe, his neighbours weren't so lucky.

Roderick Mayham and his granddaughter, Danica, get ready to head home to Little Grand Rapids. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

"Apparently where I live there's going to be a lot of black trees. My neighbours lost their houses."

Mayham, a grandfather, said one of the things he's looking forward to the most is letting the kids get back to being kids.

"Here [in Winnipeg] you gotta watch them, keep your eye on them."

A plane takes off from the Winnipeg airport, beginning the task of returning people from Little Grand Rapids to their homes. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

With files from Erin Brohman, Austin Grabish and Bryce Hoye