While the rain is encouraging firefighters in northern Saskatchewan, it’s not enough.
There was only one to three millimetres of rain around Montreal Lake and La Ronge, which was not enough to change the situation.
“This rain in some of the areas might encourage people that may want to return to their communities. We would caution individuals that there is still fire operations and mop up going on in many communities, even the ones that did receive precipitation,” Duane McKay, commissioner of emergency management and fire safety with Government Relations, said.
“We would ask that people check with their local leaders prior to returning either to check on their cabins and recreation properties or even their home communities.”
There are 125 active fires burning in the province as of Tuesday. Two new fires were started by lightning on Monday.
The fires, which are burning an area 27 times the size of Saskatoon, have been less active. They have not increased the threat to any community. However, other fires in the far north have been getting close to industrial operations.
Seabee mine north of La Ronge has evacuated non-essential personnel.
“Smoke does pose a significant risk to those who work in a mine situation because it gets drawn down into their ventilation system. So they have chosen to cease operations, take non essential out, but they have left the core staff to be on site for them,” Steve Roberts with the Ministry of Environment said.
There are 10,398 evacuees receiving social services, which includes 320 (North Battleford), 4,706 (Prince Albert), 3.320 (Saskatoon), 1,254 (Regina) and 798 (Cold Lake.)
Environment Canada is forecasting some precipitation and cooler temperatures this week for nearly all of Saskatchewan.
“I see up in La Ronge, they may very well be getting over the next couple days five to 10 to maybe 25 millimetres (almost one inch) of rain. It will clear up the smoke, cleanse the air and dampen the fires. It will also provide some cooler weather that will really help those workers,” David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said on The Brent Loucks Show.
“It’s not a rainmaker that’s going to end the drought but it will certainly be very welcome. All moisture is good.”
Phillips said the last three weeks has seen very little rain with 10 days at or above 30 C. Cooler temperatures, about four degrees below normal, are on the way after the rain ends around Thursday.
“You are absolutely clobbering any record that has ever been created with regards to precipitation … it’s hard to break records in Saskatoon because the records go back to the 1800s. Clearly it has been too little weather for too long.”
Environment Canada’s long-term model suggests warmer temperatures for the rest of the summer but more precipitation.
Province discourages from evacuees returning home early
McKay is discouraging evacuees who want to return home before it is safe.
“We run into situations where people have found their way back into their communities … trying to protect their properties,” he said.
Karri Kempf with Social Services is also making it clear that the province did not issue a sign to Montreal Lake evacuees, saying they would be returning on Thursday.
A photo circulating on Facebook.
“That sign is not issued by emergency social services. That is not one of the ways that we would not notify people. We would stick to our regular chains of command,” she said Tuesday.
“Anybody we have housed in our shelters who we are in direct contact through with the Red Cross we will strongly encourage them to wait until they have safety clearance and are able to access organized transportation so that we know that people travelling on roads are safe and going to arrive at their destination. That’s a good example of where that community and neighbouring communities may not have sufficient information to make choices for themselves as individuals.”
Kempf said Facebook has been a tremendous challenge for them.
Social services does not have a tally of how many people have returned home since many people are mobile and moving between cities.
“We’ve been trying not to release too much information (about who is going home) and the reason for this is imagine you are someone who has been out for two weeks and you hear that Red Earth for example has been cleared and you know that your community is only 45 minutes away… then you make an assumption that you are also safe to return and we have a movement of people,” Kempf said.
Mail service has started for evacuees at all major service centres.
Donations for evacuees
The Lac La Ronge Indian Band has opened a bank account to accept donations for thousands of evacuees.
The donations will go towards helping cover the costs of emergency operation centres in Lac La Ronge Indian Band communities, including Grandmother’s Bay, Stanley Mission, Hall Lake, Sucker River, La Ronge and Air Ronge, according to Chief Tammy Cook-Searson.
The money will help support Red Cross evacuation shelters for items such as food and employees assisting the centres.
Donations can be made to the following CIBC account:
Transit # 58-5533813
Account name: LLRIB Evacuation 2015
PotashCorp is putting up to $100,000 for relief efforts aimed at helping forest fire evacuees.
In the short term, the company has about $20,000 to helping local emergency services teams in Saskatoon and Regina, as well as providing transportation, shelter, food and local activities through organizations including the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
Meanwhile, Access Communications announced on Tuesday that it would be giving customers in La Ronge and Air Ronge a break on their cable bills.
The provider won’t bill its customers in the area during the period of the evacuation.
The announcement comes the day after the province announced SaskTel, SaskPower, and SaskEnergy will waive late payments and disconnection for those customers in mandatory evacuation zones until Sept. 1.
There are over 1,500 fire personnel fighting the fires which include 550 military personnel and 116 out-of-province wildlife personnel.
The province said fighting fires is dangerous work and people need to be fully trained. Independent or freelance operations are being discouraged.
There have been 623 wildfires to date this year. An additional five structures have burnt over the last couple of weeks, which brings the total to 86.
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