Massive fires near La Ronge and north of Prince Albert National Park are both about three times the size of Saskatoon. They are part of 116 fires that continued to burn in the province on Thursday.
Crews are making progress as efforts have been ramped up to move resources into affected areas over the past few days.
However, Daryl Jessop, director of wildfire support services with the Ministry of Environment said it’s a tough battle.
“We have 35 fires that are not contained … we are actively engaged on the fire, but we’re expecting potential growth,” he said.
The number of evacuees now tops 5,000 with people staying in Prince Albert, North Battleford, Regina and Saskatoon. There isn’t any more room in Prince Albert or North Battleford, so additional space is being looked at to open in Saskatoon and Regina.
Lorna Lavallee and her children were evacuated from Timber Bay on Sunday and have been staying at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon since.
“It’s been OK for the kids and everything, but we are used to being all together. So it’s nice being with the community and all our kids together,” she said.
“They think it’s like one big camp, like they all get to sleep together in cots right beside each other, so they are having fun. But they don’t really understand what’s going on back home, they are all so small.”
Harley Wilson, Gage Charles, and Daina Wilson relax inside a van at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre. Kelly Malone/News Talk Radio
Thursday morning, an entertainer went to the soccer centre to make balloon animals for the children. On Wednesday there was face painting and Canada Day celebrations.
“Entertainment is very, very important. (There has been) donations of books, colouring books, toys, we have a whole tub full of toys that were donated. You don’t think to bring them from home,” Lavallee said. “We’ve slowly been accumulating stuff to make them comfortable at least. They are good kids these ones.”
Daina Wilson, Harley Wilson, and Gage Charles relaxed in a van outside while children ran by with balloon dragons, swords, or princess crowns.
“The first night it was kind of hard, we were all homesick,” Daina said. “But the last few nights were pretty awesome. We got to see a lot of Saskatoon and it’s quite beautiful out here.”
Daina said they don’t have transportation, so they rely on her aunt, who lives in town, to drive them around when she has time.
“They both grabbed their game systems,” she said, pointing to Harley and Gage. “I packed a suitcase with valuable things and some clothes, mostly valuable things, so I’m regretting not bringing more clothes.”
To help get fires under control, Jessop said crews are coming from outside the province.
“We have a burn team from Ontario, ground crews from Ontario … ground crews from New Brunswick, ground crews from Newfoundland en route today and we have a ground crew from South Dakota assisting in Cypress Hills,” Jessop said.
No one has been hurt in the fires, although one home southwest of La Ronge has burned down along with other remote cabins, but Jessop did not have an exact number of structures lost.
SaskTel does not have any outages in the northern part of the province. The Crown has ordered equipment in case important infrastructure near Weyakwin is destroyed.
The government is urging people to stay out of active firefighting areas as it can put lives and equipment at risk.
There have been 525 fires in 2015 so far compared to 192 at this time last year.
-With files from New Talk Radio’s Trelle Kolojay and Kelly Malone
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