La Ronge-area evacuees are returning home after the area received a big dose of rain.
The mandatory evacuation order for Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Air Ronge and La Ronge has been lifted, according to an email from Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson. The road will open at 1 p.m. on Friday.
The evacuation order has also been lifted for Wadin Bay, English Bay, Southend and Deschambault Lake.
The La Ronge area received 14 millimeters of rain overnight and another 30 millimetres is expected in the next 24 hours.
“There’s puddles all over, so it’s nice to see we did get a lot of rain,” Cook-Searson said on The Brent Loucks Show.
While there was still smoke hanging in the air Friday morning, the wildfire threat is no longer affecting the area. There are currently 112 fires burning in the province, which is much less than the 127 burning on Thursday. Fire crews extinguished 20 fires and five new ones started.
As people return home, the provincial government says they should not be surprised to still see fires. Fire crews are still working on blazes.
While the mandatory evacuation has been lifted, the general order is still in place for people with chronic illnesses, children under two years old and pregnant women.
Essential services will be available, including potable water, electricity and basic medical services. However, natural gas will not be on in some homes.
A pharmacy will be open this week. It could take two days before there is full medical service, with the clinic opening up at the start of next week.
Evacuees are encouraged to bring some basic supplies back with them as local stores stock shelves.
Mail will begin to arrive from Prince Albert early next week.
Mandatory evacuation orders are still in place for Eagle Point, Nemeiben Lake, Lamp Lake, Sucker River, Hall Lake, Sikachu Lake and Clam Lake.
About 1,650 evacuees returned home on Thursday with assistance. An additional 1,000 are expected to have returned home without assistance.
A total of 99 structures have burned since the start of the fire season.
Ready for the long trip home
Trevor and Tamara Putz and their two young daughters are very excited to be going home after being evacuated from La Ronge two weeks ago.
“We actually had a few things that we were planning on doing (Friday) and as soon as we heard we were able to go home, we just decided to drop everything and rush back,” Putz said.
They have been staying with family in Regina and even took a trip to Calgary, but he says it still hasn’t been easy waiting.
“When you’re kind of out for an indefinite amount of time, you don’t really know what you’re going to do or where you’re going to end up in the next couple weeks so it’s a pretty tough situation,” he said.
Relieved to be going home at last, he gives full credit to the hard work of firefighters up north for protecting people’s homes.
“We know that there were literally dozens of fire departments that went out to help, the army was out to help and we’re extremely thankful for everyone that went out and did what they could,” Putz said.
The family plans on having a relaxing night when they finally get home. He wants to watch the Rider game and his daughters want to play with their toys that they left behind weeks ago.
As more and more evacuees in Regina are getting the chance to go home, or at least closer to home, there’s one particular item they need that’s becoming apparent: luggage.
“Because most people left their houses with just bags and clothes,” explained La Ronge’s Eric Vanderkracht. “Some people have suitcases, I got duffle bags. I got lucky.”
Erica Beaudin from The Gathering Place affirmed that they’re looking to get a few more bags to give out to evacuees.
“We probably require that specifically. We’re sitting at zero. As soon as a duffle bag or a piece of luggage comes in, it’s gone within five minutes,” she admitted.
“I think that it provides a little bit of a better feeling for the evacuees if they’re going home in something other than a garbage full of clothing.”
Besides that she said they’re still looking for donations geared around babies and toddlers. That includes items such as pampers, formula and new underwear. Beaudin said they do not need toys.
They’ll collect as much as they can while evacuees are still living in the city before opening their donations up to any of the northern communities or Regina’s general public.
Vanderkracht will continue to live in his hotel room until buses are lined up and organized to take him and his family back to La Ronge. For now, he can only watch as others get the all clear to head back to their respective communities.
“It makes me feel happy for them I guess because they were all smiling and happy to go home.”
Provincial fire ban lifted
The provincial fire ban has been lifted since it was put into effect on June 25.
Rural and urban municipalities have their own fire bans in place. However, there is no longer a fire ban at the following locations: Canwood, Fort a la Corne, Nisbet, Northern, Porcupine and Torch River provincial forests, Candle Lake, Great Blue Heron, Lac La Ronge, Meadow Lake, Makwa Lake and Narrow Hills provincial parks, Bronson Forest and Chitek Lake recreation sites.
The fire ban at Prince Albert National Park was lifted earlier this week.
With files from News Talk Radio’s Angela Hill, Karin Yeske, Kevin Martel and Adriana Christianson.
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