As wildfires continue to burn in northern Saskatchewan over 12,000 people have been forced from their homes.
With 7,000 people registered with social services, Saskatoon has already taken in more than 2,000 evacuees in with the majority staying at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre. Others are staying at the Travelodge near Circle Drive and the Thriftlodge on Idylwyld Drive.
Some evacuees have been staying in shelters in Saskatoon for more than a week, so the Red Cross, in partnership with the Saskatoon Health Region and the City of Saskatoon, have pooled resources together to offer evacuated families a chance to see everything Saskatoon has to offer.
Every day this week, trips for evacuees have been planned for Riversdale Pool, Pike Lake, the Forestry Farm Park and Zoo, youth and adult fitness boot camps, baseball and soccer camps for kids, and bingo.
On Tuesday, a group including evacuees from Montreal Lake, La Ronge, and La Loche spent the day at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park.
Mike from Montreal Lake said the guided tours through six kilometres of trails, lunch and activities was a good distraction for his girlfriend and their toddler.
“(The shelter), it’s crowded and confusing – we’re going by what other people say and we’re not sure when we’re going to go back. I guess it all depends on the weather,” Mike said, moments before a performance at the heritage park. “I’ve heard we can be home as early as Friday.”
Daina Wilson and her family of 13 from Timber Bay have been in Saskatoon for almost a week. She said the moments leading up to the evacuation, you could barely see a few hundred feet in front of you.
“It was so smoky and ashes were falling from the sky and all the vehicles are covered in ashes and it was pretty scary to see how close it was,” Wilson said. “We feel pretty scared because the fire already got to Montreal Lake, which is 20 minutes away from Timber Bay … so far 11 houses have burned down in Montreal Lake and now the military is stepping in so that’s pretty good.”
She hopes her home is safe, because they left some pets and a brand-new TV.
“We had to leave quite a few things, we have 12 cats at home and we could bring one. We’re hoping they’ll be okay because they have nine lives,” Wilson said. “My uncle is up there and he’s keeping in touch with us with what’s going on. So far it doesn’t look very good to go home any time soon.”
The Salvation Army is no longer accepting clothing for wildfire evacuees in Saskatoon as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The organization is closing its drop-off tent at the soccer centre. More than 2,700 people received summer clothes through the donation centre.
– with files from News Talk Radio’s Bre McAdam
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