The number of evacuees from northern Saskatchewan continues to grow as dozens of wildfires burn, and now some of those forced from their houses are calling Regina their temporary home.
There are now about 1,500 people from places like La Ronge, La Loche, and Buffalo Narrows taking shelter in Regina. The first 700 started to arrive in the Queen City late Monday night just before midnight. Many travelled by bus for hours, if they were lucky.
“It took us about a couple of days to get here,” said Dino Janvier from La Loche.
Janvier is staying at the Credit Union Eventplex at Evraz Place, one of two evacuation centres along with the University of Regina. As evacuees stepped off the bus Tuesday and got accustomed to their new surroundings on the grounds of Evraz, they looked exhausted. Several were rubbing their eyes. Others were wrapped in blankets.
“Very tired. I only had like an hour of sleep,” said Kelly Charles.” It was a pretty rough ride coming this way.”
Charles and her family travelled to Regina from La Ronge, which she estimated took about seven hours to drive with her three daughters, aged five, four and two.
“(It was) very smoky. A lot of fires everywhere surrounding La Ronge so we had to get out of there. My girls are starting to cough more and smoke coming into our house.”
Basic supplies and toiletries were laid out inside Evraz Place for evacuees. Steps away, row after row of long, white tables and chairs were laid out; the centre is ready for the possibility to accommodate hundreds of hungry people.
“No one’s ever turned away. We would never do that,” said Cindy Fuchs, provincial director of the Red Cross.
The Red Cross has six shelters up and running in the province to help evacuees. Fuchs said the shelters in Regina are already 100 people shy of capacity and the Red Cross is now searching for additional locations. Fuchs said that could include public schools, as they have used those in the past.
Fuchs said she’s been doing this for more than three decades and this is the single largest number of evacuees in Regina she’s ever seen. She added the public can help make the transition for them a bit easier by doing one simple thing.
“Be patient with them. They’re in a new place. They’ve been evacuated in the middle of the night and they’ve got a lot of stress on their plates.”
Despite a Facebook post being shared stating otherwise, the Red Cross says they don’t have an immediate need for volunteers. Anyone interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer can do so, but it takes time as there is a process in place. More information can be found here.
Those who left things behind up north like Charles are unsure as to when they’ll be able to go back. In the meantime, it might not be the most ideal option, but she’ll have to make do with her current living arrangement.
“It kinda sucks, not feeling home.”
As of Wednesday, there were more than 4,878 people evacuated due to the wildfires: 1,100 evacuees in Saskatoon, 1,515 in Regina, 1,816 in Prince Albert and 447 in North Battleford.