Jennifer and Mable Isbister didn’t want to leave their La Ronge home, even as the wildfires approached and a general evacuation order was being enforced.
The past 48 hours hasn’t been easy for the two sisters and their families. Without time to pack their things, they and hundreds of others boarded a bus to Prince Albert on route to Cold Lake, Alberta.
“We slept on concrete at PA,” Jennifer said, “some of them stayed up all night, some of them didn’t even sleep.”
Following the six-and-a-half-hour drive, many of the evacuees found themselves lacking basic amenities at the Cold Lake Energy Centre.
Jennifer was given a fold-up cot with a small wool blanket to sleep on. Others didn’t get blankets. According to the sisters, there is also not enough food to go around.
“This morning they ran out of stuff again,” Mable said.
“It’s going to be a continuing process,” Jennifer added, “Some of us didn’t even have supper last night or breakfast this morning.”
Some of the elders had to leave home without their medicine, wheelchairs and walkers, and getting to meals has been a challenge, she said.
“I went and borrowed an office chair and helped my grandpa,” Jennifer said, “I put him in there and took him to the kitchen and took him outside for a smoke. So he’s keeping that chair with him. He’s using that.”
As of Monday, 721 evacuees were being housed in Cold Lake.
J.P. Taschereau, senior manager of emergency response with the Red Cross, said he is not aware of a food shortage at the evacuation centre in Cold Lake.
He said volunteers are working to help replace vital things that evacuees may have left behind.
“If our volunteers in the shelter become aware of such a situation, they will then refer to public health and then we’ll have a volunteer go and pick up either medication or a wheelchair or for example, baby formula or diapers,” Taschereau said.
Just like at Saskatchewan’s evacuation centres, the Red Cross is not accepting direct donations, saying the space and manpower required to take them would pull resources away from more urgent needs.
Instead, they point people towards organizations like the Salvation Army and other community charities.
“Lots of these evacuees don’t necessarily want to be in the parking lot having a quiet moment, and be challenged by somebody with a garbage bag full of clothes,” Karri Kempf with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services explains.
“It’s really intimidating for people. They’re not used to the crowds, they’re not used to the huge centres.”
But Jennifer and Mable Isbister said while many are lacking towels or clothing, such help would be welcome.
“Why should they reject the donations that are being offered to the people that need them?” Jennifer asked.
-with files from News Talk Radio’s Kurtis Doering
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