Northern Saskatchewan fire zone evacuees arriving in Regina

Sixteen hundred evacuees were taking shelter in Regina late Tuesday, after wildfires in northern Saskatchewan forced them from their homes.

Emergency shelters already full in Prince Albert, Saskatoon

The Red Cross is preparing to receive as many as 2,000 evacuees from northern Saskatchewan to Regina . (Adrian Cheung/CBC)

About sixteen hundred evacuees were taking shelter in Regina late Tuesday, after wildfires in northern Saskatchewan forced them from their homes.

Across the province, 4,000 were expected to be registered with Red Cross by Tuesday night.

Earlier Tuesday evening, Red Cross had set up 800 more beds in Regina, expanding its overall capacity in the city to 1,600, said executive director Cindy Fuchs. 

The group opened rinks 4 and 5 at the Credit Union EventPlex to make more room.

"This is probably the largest we have dealt with and the most complex. From over 12 communities, from a variety of places right across the northern part of the province, so it's not just one community," Fuchs said.

Most of the displaced persons are coming from Laloche via Buffalo Narrows, she said. 

"It depends on the weather. But we are living it day by day, hour by hour," she said. 

Kathy Lavalee arrived from La Ronge with her two sons and the three are staying at the Credit Union EventPlex at Evraz Place. 

She said the seven-hour drive was a harrowing one through certain highways up north. 

"It seemed like it was so unreal. It was, the smoke was just so heavy and you could see fire spots on either side of the highway," she said.

Lavalee said the heavy smoke was unbearable back home. 

"The smoke was very thick and it had dropped a lot, it was very heavy. It was making it very hard to breathe. First time in my lifetime, where I've been evacuated out twice, in a month," the mother said. 

The Saskatchewan Red Cross director said evacuation and shelter efforts are among the largest in 30 years in the province.

Cabins and areas north of Sucker River, Sask., are wrapped in smoke from wildfires in northern Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Lisa Koshinsky)

A large section of Highway 2 north of Prince Albert to La Ronge remained closed Tuesday afternoon.

Louis Laprise travelled more than 10 hours and 800 kilometres to take refuge in Regina.

He left La Loche because of a raging fire just five kilometres east of the community.

"[We're] lucky that we got out of there," he said. 

Premier Brad Wall urged everyone in the province to "pull together" to help evacuees.

"We really need to do that right now in terms of taking care of these folks that are displaced from their home," he said.

"It's kind of lonely right here. Without knowing anyone. Just kind of out of touch," Laprise said of Regina.

Fuchs stressed the need for trained volunteers, especially if they've already completed criminal record checks. 

She asked that people drop of off donations at the Salvation Army, not at the locations sheltering evacuees.

University of Regina hosting evacuees

Approximately 85 evacuees were staying at the University of Regina on Tuesday afternoon. 

The Red Cross moved displaced northern residents needing private rooms due to nursing needs with infants or health issues to the campus, a university representative confirmed. 

She said the school has capacity for 170 people.

Arrivals started from Monday night

On Monday night around 11 p.m., the first evacuees started arriving at the Credit Union EventPlex in Evraz Place. Some 350 came to the city during the night, Red Cross officials told CBC News. 

More were on the way Tuesday morning after Prince Albert and Saskatoon reached capacity. 

The Red Cross estimates as many as 4,500 people could be in temporary shelters across the province by the end of the day.

Once the space fills up at Evraz Place, the Red Cross will look to put evacuees in schools and hotels in the city. 

A wildfire is pictured earlier this week about five kilometres from Montreal Lake. (Riley Bloodworth)

Regina firefighters and paramedics were helping out evacuees in Regina Monday night, while the Red Cross co-ordinated the registration processes. 

At least four Salvation Army personnel were there handing out meals and snacks. 

Some said they were feeling the effects of the smoke in Regina, which reduced visibility to under a kilometre by the late afternoon.