By Mervin Brass

Though more than 100 wild fires still burn in the northern part of the province, evacuation orders have been lifted for some communities, and the provincial government has rescinded its ban on open fires for some spots in the north.

The government expects thousands of people to start returning home today following the announcement that the evacuation order has been lifted for the La Ronge area.

Emergency Social Services spokesperson Karri Kempf says there are still close to 9000 people receiving emergency support.

She says that all together, more than 2,600 people returned home yesterday since the government began lifting evacuation orders.

Earlier this week the government announced evacuees from Pinehouse, Little Red, Sturgeon Lake, Red Earth and Wahpeton could go home.

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But now the number of those returning home is expected to increase in the next day or two.

“If La Ronge’s formal announcement reaches all of the folk’s friends and family it’s easily for us to estimate 2000 people returning to that area,” says Kempf. “We do have a large portion of those people with their own vehicles, many of whom never even registered with us in the first place, they simple went to a family member or they’re looking after themselves.”

In a Facebook post, Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson noted that it was not safe for all evacuees to return home.

“The smoke continues to be an issue, so the people that are on the chronic list, people that are 2 years old, pregnant moms and our elders are unable to come back at this time,” Chief Cook-Searson said in a video posted on Facebook.

For those who were able to return home, Chief Cook-Searson noted that the road was opening at 1 p.m.

“We thank you for your patience and support during this challenging time that we’ve had, and we continue to ask for your patience and support and we ask you to travel safe home, take care, and remember to say thank you to all the people that have helped us along the way. There have been so many people and we just want to say thank you from the bottom  of our hearts,” she said in the video.

The Department of Highways says Highway 2 north of Prince Albert is open for business.

However, spokesperson Doug Wakabayashi says there are still other highways that remain closed.

“On the west side of the province Highway 903 remains closed 44 km north of Junction 965,” he says. “In the Weyakwin, Montreal Lake area Highway 935 is closed from Junction 165 and Highway 912 is closed, also Highway 937 from Junction 929 to 921 is closed.”

Even with the return of people to the La Ronge area the risk of fire in the region is still high according to the province.

There are still 112 wildfires burning in Saskatchewan with the Lynx Fire north of La Ronge still a concern.

Environment spokesperson Steve Roberts says the Lynx fire is a risk to Highway 102 north of the community.

“One of the other things people need as they start to go back to their communities now that the communities are secure, these fires are not out” says Roberts. “We will be managing them. They will see occasional smoke and those types of events that will occur. They will see crews working, helicopters working, that’s to be expected.”

Fire ban lifted

Today, the Ministry of the Environment, in consultation with the Ministry of Parks, Culture and sport has lifted the ban on opens fires for much of northern Saskatchewan. The ban was put into effect June 25. It has been rescinded for provincial forests and provincial parks and recreation sites within those forests.

A press release noted the reasons for lifting the ban were that recent rainfall and cooler temperatures have reduced wildfire hazards.

Affected areas include Canwood, Fort a la Corne, Nisbet, Northern, Porcupine and Torch River provincial forests, and Candle Lake, Great Blue Heron, Lac La Ronge, Meadow Lake, Makwa Lake and Narrow Hills provincial parks, and Bronson Forest and Chitek Lake recreation sites.

Some rural and urban municipalities have their own fire bans in place. People are asked to check with local authorities to find out if there are fire bans in the area.

People are also reminded to check wind and weather conditions before starting a fire, don’t leave it unattended and make sure it’s dead out before leaving.

To report a wildfire, call 1-800-667-9660.



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