Wildfires in northeastern Saskatchewan are continuing to pose a danger to the Pelican Narrows area, as more residents flee the flames and smoke.
The province provided an update on the situation during an 11 a.m. teleconference, saying Jan Lake and Birch Portage had been fully evacuated due to out-of-control fires within one kilometre of each community.
Another fire was also holding steady three kilometres north of Pelican Narrows, where over 1,000 people remained in the town.
Wildfire Management Executive Director Steve Roberts said they haven’t received any reports of structures burning down.
“We’re focused on the protection of people and property,” he said. “Almost all of our provincial resources are focused on the Pelican Narrows fires.”
Those resources include 140 firefighters on the ground, 15 helicopters in the air and four pieces of heavy equipment.
Executive Director of Emergency Management Duane McKay said Thursday the province wasn’t enforcing a mandatory evacuation order for Pelican Narrows, which was issued by the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation early Wednesday.
However, he said anyone leaving the community wouldn’t be able to come back.
“It’s to ensure we’re not increasing our risk by letting people back into the community,” McKay said.
He added five buses were on standby in the town for anyone wishing to leave, but there’s been little interest.
“People are there that don’t feel the need to leave at this particular point because there’s no direct threat,” he said.
Those who do stay are being asked to help in firefighting efforts, or to “stay in place” in their homes to limit risks.
EVACUEES REGISTERING IN SASKATOON, PRINCE ALBERT
While some have chosen to stay, 1,559 people have registered with the province as evacuees in either Saskatoon or Prince Albert.
Over half had registered at Henk Ruys Soccer Centre, where 824 Pelican Narrows residents have come to stay.
Prince Albert is also hosting 640 evacuees from the town, while 14 people from Birch Portage and two from Jan Lake have registered as well.
Residents are also starting to arrive from Sandy Bay, a community located 70 kilometres north of Pelican Narrows.
While the fires are still 14 kilometres away from the small community, flames and smoke had closed down Highway 135 leading to the village.
As of Thursday, 79 Sandy Bay residents had registered in Prince Albert.
Officials didn’t indicate when residents would be allowed back into the communities.