At the Evraz Place evacuation centre in Regina, Jeanine Montgrand is anxiously waiting for time when she can finally tuck her four kids into their own beds at home in Buffalo Narrows.
“This place is really wearing down on us. We’ve been here for nine days already and it doesn’t seem like it’s looking up for us to go home any time soon,” she said.
She said it’s tough to get her kids to go to sleep at Evraz Place sharing a room with hundreds of other people, especially when other kids are staying up late and running around.
She added that it’s hard to hide her stress.
“They can sense it – my babies always say, ‘Mom are you mad?’ No, I’m happy,” Montgrand said. “They keep phoning their grandparents ‘Pick me up. I want to go home’. So hopefully we’ll hear something soon.”
Meanwhile, the kids at Evraz Place are making the best of a bad situation, treating it more like an adventure. The Regina Public Library has brought in a mobile library and set up computers. There are big screen televisions and even video games set up for entertainment.
If you ask 12-year-old Kaydence Montgrand, it’s kind of like a vacation from his home in Buffalo Narrows.
“It’s been better, cause in Buffalo there’s barely (anything) to do,” he said.
He said he doesn’t miss home, saying he loves playing soccer every day in Regina. Red Cross volunteers and some partner organizations have teamed up to plan lots of activities like soccer and basketball throughout the day.
Some of the youngest kids say they do miss home, but they also really want to go swimming now.
In the early afternoon, there was a constant stream of kids heading across the street to the Lawson Pool where the city is offering free swimming for all registered evacuees.
“I went swimming yesterday. I went in a 4.9 metre pool – that’s deep,” Kaydence Montgrand said.
The Saskatchewan Science Centre has also offered free passes to evacuees. Meanwhile, the Gathering Place in Regina has been setting up activities for kids and teenagers through the File Hills Tribal Council. That’s where the Montgrand family was heading next, trying to fill the day.
Cameco has also organized a travelling kids carnival for evacuees in Regina on Thursday after stopping in Prince Albert, Cold Lake and Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Regina Mayor Michael Fougere took a tour of the evacuation centre on Wednesday afternoon. Both gave major credit to the Red Cross volunteers who are running the centre.
“Sometimes you go through on a tour and the only thing you really have is ‘thank you’ and it doesn’t really seem like enough given the scale of the effort and how much volunteer time is put into this,” Wall said.
Unfortunately Wall was not able to give the evacuees the news they really wanted to hear, which is when they can go home.
“Until it’s absolutely safe, let’s be careful not to prematurely end the evacuation order,” he said. “They want to go home and I get that. I want to go home after a day on the road, never mind weeks.”
Wall added that he is cautiously optimistic about the state of the fires right now. While the Egg fire near La Ronge is a very serious threat, other fires near La Loche and Pinehouse have remained stable.
He is also supporting the request from Lac La Ronge Chief Tammy Searson to bring back volunteer fire fighters from First Nations to get training to fight the fires themselves. Wall says they do need more support to fight fires on the ground because the smoke and weather conditions have kept the air support grounded for most of the last two weeks.