Residents of Grandmother’s Bay are going home and the province says more northern Saskatchewan communities may soon know when they could return as well.
The provincial government announced Saturday around noon that the Brian Fire north of Grandmother’s Bay was not an immediate threat to the community and residents could return home. However, due to lingering smoke, elders, children two years old or younger and pregnant women should stay out of the community.
People who drove can get a gas voucher from the Red Cross while those who need a ride back can contact the Red Cross at 1-888-953-3463. Buses will start leaving Sunday.
Grandmother’s Bay residents were issued a mandatory evacuation on June 28. About 130 evacuees registered with the province.
As of Sunday, there were 124 wildfires burning in Northern Saskatchewan, two more than Saturday. The Ministry of Environment said one fire was put out but lightning caused three new fires overnight.
The Ministry of Government Relations while many wildfires aren’t under control, the threat to some communities is in check. Commissioner of emergency management and fire safety Duane McKay said over the next day, officials will find out which communities may soon be able to go home.
“I suspect that by tomorrow we will have a good list of priorities where we think we can concentrate our efforts to reduce that risk and let people in or know how long it might be before we can let people back in,” he said.
However communities must meet a set of criteria before people can return. The community must not be under direct threat from fire or dangerous level of smoke, medical facilities must be open and essential services such as water, power and phone lines must be working.
“We have to get the community back up and running and make sure all the services are there,” McKay said.
Wildfire Management will also ensure that there are no embers burning within the community.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Steve Roberts said the weather is warm but humidity is up and the forecast call for a chances of rain starting on Monday and increasing throughout the week.
The province saw an increase in the number of registered evacuees to 9,760 from 9,005 Saturday, however no new communities were evacuated. Social Services spokeswoman Kerri Kempf said as the fire threat to communities diminishes, the ministry encourages evacuees to register so the province can help them get home when their area gets the all clear.
Kempf said residents can stay up to date on the latest information by visiting Red Cross evacuation centres or calling them.
On Saturday, a convoy of 50 cars returned people and brought supplies home to northern communities not affected by wildfires. The communities include Missinipe, Otter Rapids, Brabant, Southend and the Athabasca Basin.
Another convoy will take cars up Highway 102 in small groups Sunday between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m, weather permitting. People can meet at the Highway 2 blockade, 10 kilometres south of Air Ronge. Only those from unaffected communities will be allowed through the blockade. Highway 102 remains closed to all non-emergency traffic.
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