The northern village of Pinehouse’s leadership doesn’t fear the nearby fire threat, but says the community has been dealing with its fair share of challenges.
The community has been without power since last Thursday, and on one day lost all communication when a SaskTel tower went down.
Despite all this, Mayor Mike Natomagan remains positive. He is one of about 130 of Pinehouse’s 1,450 residents who has stayed in the community.
He noted they acquired a generator and powered up modems during the SaskTel outage, which was handy.
“With the help that we got from wildfire management, they’ve been very helpful, along with emergency social services and the Red Cross,” Natomagan said.
Just west of the community, a large fire looms.
Steve Roberts with the Ministry of Environment said two kilometres from Pinhouse is the Senec fire, which is the size of Calgary (850 square kilometres).
“It is a concern for us to hold that fire stable,” Roberts said.
Natomagan said they’ve been lucky so far, only losing three cabins. He added that much of the credit needs to go to the community’s younger people who helped set up a sprinkler system and have worked day and night to protect the community.
“It’s a blessing to be a mayor of a northern community where you see the cooperation from everybody. It’s very rewarding to see that as a leader,” he said.
Three kilometres worth of power poles and fiber have been downed by the fire, which is affecting power service to some communities.
“In the last few days we have seen a few pieces of critical infrastructure damaged,” Duane McKay commisioner of emergency management and fire safety said, adding SaskPower, Sasktel, and SaskEnergy are quickly responding.
“Once the danger is passed they will restore those as quickly as possible,” McKay said.
Natomagan added that the highways department has also been very helpful, and Cameco has provided the community with supplies.
“They gave us a three-phase generator that will help power up our co-op freezer so we don’t lose all of our frozen meats,” he said.
The Key Lake operation sent a generator and electrical skid to Pinehouse. Courtesy Cameco Connects.
Cameco also assisted with the community’s evacuation effort, transporting high-need residents, mostly women and children, to Saskatoon from its Key Lake mine operation, Natomagan said.
Finally, Cameco has provided plenty of equipment for those who have stayed behind to protect their community from the fire.
Being without power for nearly a week, one might assume the community would be running low on supplies.
Natomagan said he is not worried about that.
“The community members (the ones who left), a lot of them left their keys behind which we are allowed to dig into their freezers and so we’ve got an abundance of food,” he said with a laugh.
Natomagan said it is a little comforting knowing there are many other communities in a similar situation, and he added that the only thing they can do is to wait it out.
Comparing the population and the fire threat to Pinehouse to other northern communities, he noted the seriousness of efforts in La Ronge area.
“We’re praying for La Ronge as well as for the whole north actually,” Natomagan said.
However, he expressed confidence in the leadership in that area to serve its best interests.
– With files from paNOW’s Chelsea Laskowski and News Talk Radio’s Kelly Malone
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