The man who lead La Ronge through last summer’s devastating fire season said at one point he didn’t know if there would be a community to come back to.
“There was some emotional times,” mayor Thomas Sierzycki said. “When you have people around the table … that all have the same look in their eyes as you do, and you know that you don’t really know what’s going to happen next; that’s pretty tough.”
Sierzycki is reflecting on the fires that affected 50 communities and forced 13,000 people to flee their homes.
Sierzycki said while the community has done a good job readjusting to life after being forced from their homes, businesses have suffered, especially those in the tourism sector. He said those businesses will take much longer to bounce back.
“I definitely think it’s going to be several years before we get back to…and in some areas where there has been complete destruction of forests and other things that is going to take a while.”
The silver lining, according to Sierzycki, is the fires showed how resilient northerners are.
“Really what’s emerging is you see a strong will of people to come together as a community.” he said, pointing to ski chalets that were rebuilt and volunteers who came out to clear snowmobile trails.
Sierzycki said the fires also exposed the weaknesses in their emergency response plans. He said the community is reviewing its procedures.
“When that fire comes back to La Ronge, in 10, 15, 20 years from now, we need to be prepared to handle that.”
The province is also going back to each affected community to gather feedback on what can be changed for next time.
In total, the wildfires cost the province over $100-million.