Saskatchewan

1,000s of Saskatchewan fire evacuees returning home to La Ronge and area

An estimated 7,000 people who were forced to leave a number of communities in the La Ronge area of Saskatchewan, due to forest fires, are now able to return home. A mandatory evacuation order was lifted Friday.

Road open to Lac La Ronge Indian Band, La Ronge, Air Ronge

Community leaders, including Chief Tammy Cook-Searson (left) of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, welcome evacuees returning to their home communities. (Tammy Cook-Searson/Facebook)
Thousands of people will be returning to home communities in the La Ronge area over the next few days. (Thomas Sierzycki/Facebook)
An estimated 7,000 people who were forced to leave a number of communities in the La Ronge area of Saskatchewan, due to forest fires, are now able to return home. A mandatory evacuation order was lifted Friday.

La Ronge Mayor Thomas Sierzycki said local leaders decided to lift the evacuation order for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, as well as the communities of La Ronge and Air Ronge. A similar order affecting the resort communities of Wadin Bay and English Bay was also lifted.

"It's an exciting day," Sierzycki said Friday. "Not only for leadership, but for all the agencies that have been working hard around the clock."

To handle the the large number of returning residents, officials were managing the return in stages.

As of 1 p.m. CST Friday, anyone with their own vehicles was allowed to drive back to their homes.

Buses roll on Saturday

Many of the evacuees have been living in temporary quarters at shelters in Cold Lake (in Alberta), Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

More than 1,000 people were evacuated from the La Ronge area due to wildfires in the area. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)
Plans were underway for them to be moved by bus starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Officials said moving everyone is expected to take several days.

Arrangements were being made to have people taken to La Ronge where they will be connected with transportation to their home communities.

Sierzycki said the town of La Ronge is in good shape, but the surrounding forest is badly burned.

"Fire has burned numerous cabins in the region," he said. "Trees are black, there is devastation and it's going to take some time to really get over that."

Returnees were being asked to bring basic supplies with them when they head home because local stores have been low on supplies and are busy restocking their shelves.

Power, water available

Basics services, such as electricity and water are running. Officials said natural gas service will take a bit longer to be fully restored.

For medical needs, a basic emergency room will be set up at the La Ronge Health Centre, but it will likely be a few days before all staff return.

Air quality continues to be low, due to smoke, and people with lung conditions as well as the elderly and people with young children were being asked to remain out of the community until the air improves.

"The smoke continues to be an issue, so people who are on the chronic list, children under two years old and also pregnant moms and our elders are unable to come home at this time," Tammy Cook Searson, chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

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