Ontario wildfire evacuees start arriving in Saskatchewan
About 2,000 people from at least 20 communities in northern Ontario are expected
Evacuees fleeing wildfires in northwest Ontario have started arriving in Saskatchewan.
The first plane, carrying between 50 and 80 people, arrived in Regina this morning, according to Saskatchewan's Ministry of Government Relations.
Roughly 2,000 people are leaving their homes in northwest Ontario after Premiers Doug Ford and Scott Moe reached an agreement during premiers' meetings held in Saskatoon earlier this week.
About 20 Ontario communities are affected by the fires.
Duane McKay, vice president of operations for Saskatchewan public safety, said evacuees will be settling in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert while crews battle fires in Ontario.
"We're going to get people into Regina first," McKay said. "The situation is very fluid but we do have the first people on the ground now."
McKay said there are eight flights out of Ontario booked for today.
Evacuees are staying at the University of Regina's dorms, where 500 rooms have been made available to them. Deanna Valentine with emergency social services said an additional 150 rooms have been booked in Regina.
Valentine said the costs of the evacuation operation will be paid up front by the Ministry of Social Services and back-billed to the government of Ontario and the federal government.
"We are expecting roughly 400 people will be arriving in Regina today by plane," Valentine said.
She said Red Cross is also involved in the operation.
Cindy Fuchs, Vice President of the Red Cross in Saskatchewan, said evacuees were getting settled in their new temporary homes at the University of Regina on Thursday afternoon.
She said the organization is looking to book more hotel rooms in Regina for families if need be.
"We'd like to keep the community together as much as possible, it's just less traumatic on the families," Fuchs said.
Fuchs said typically recreation activities are planned out by Red Cross volunteers. She said those who wish will also have access to culturally-relevant practices courtesy of Red Cross partners through the province.
Many of those leaving Ontario are Ojibwe speakers. The government of Ontario will be providing them with interpreters to help with their transition to Saskatchewan and provide them with updates on the situation at home.
Valentine said it is difficult to estimate how long the evacuees will be in Saskatchewan due to the nature of fire evacuations.