Sask. community calls state of emergency, evacuations underway due to wildfire
Forest fires in area filling air with thick smoke
The resort community of Jan Lake, Sask. has declared a state of emergency over smoke concerns from a wildfire that caused the evacuation of nearby Pelican Narrows on Tuesday.
Hours earlier, about 450 people from Pelican Narrows were on their way to Saskatoon after northern forest fire smoke caused the evacuation.
They were set to stay in a temporary shelter at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon's north end.
People brought in food, diapers and basic necessities to help ease the transition.
The Red Cross has been contracted by the provincial Ministry of Social Services, with health and justice officials, as well as the City of Saskatoon sharing the work load.
"This is a big centre to set up, but we have lots of help," said Deanna Valentine, provincial emergency services co-ordinator.
"Well, it's not exactly a really homey atmosphere, but overall people are happy to be safe and know that their needs are going to be met," she said.
The Pelican Narrows residents and a dozen more from Birch Portage have fled smoke from northern forest fires. Approximately 3,500 people live in Pelican Narrows, located 520 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
Environment Canada has placed a large area of northeast Saskatchewan under a special air quality statement. It says anyone with lung issues, children and the elderly are especially at risk.
"The smoke is really thick," said Harold Linklater, vice-chief of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and a band councillor for Pelican Narrows. "Right now, there's a bit of a wind blowing, and it's helping, but you can really taste the smoke."
The national weather service said people in the area could experience shortness of breath, headaches and increased coughing. Anyone who remains in the area is asked to stay inside with the windows shut.
Valentine says other communities are considering evacuating, but no others have yet.
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With files from David Shield