Evacuees begin trek home to Pelican Narrows

Many Pelican Narrows residents are heading home to the Saskatchewan community after an evacuation order was lifted.

Saskatchewan forest fires decreasing as cool, damp weather arrives

The community of Pelican Narrows in northern Saskatchewan was evacuated two weeks ago due to a wildfire. Many of the evacuees have now been approved for return. (Ashley Queens/Facebook)

Pelican Narrows residents are heading home by car, truck and bus after an evacuation order for the Saskatchewan community was lifted Wednesday.

Government officials say most of the more than 2,500 evacuees can now go home. People with medical conditions, as well as those from smaller northern communities such as Jan Lake and Birch Portage, will have to stay in Saskatoon and Prince Albert for now, they said.

"This is good news for Pelican Narrows. Our operations are not nearly over, but we are seeing progress," Duane McKay, Saskatchewan's commissioner of emergency management and fire safety, told reporters Thursday morning.

He said fire activity has "significantly decreased" across the province, and thanked residents for respecting the fire ban in place for much of the province.

Temperatures in Pelican Narrows have cooled significantly, and are expected to remain in the 10 C to 15 C range for the next several days, with heavy rain forecast for Tuesday.

Officials said the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, which operates the school in Pelican Narrows, should start classes again Monday. That would still allow students to complete their school year on time.

Evacuees will be given bottled water and lunches to take with them. Those driving will be given gas cards for the trip. Buses will run regularly until they've taken everyone who is able to return.

Pelican Narrows, which is approximately 420 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, was evacuated in late August. Residents stayed in homes and hotels in Prince Albert and Saskatoon, as well as a Saskatoon soccer centre.