It’s being called the largest evacuation in Saskatchewan’s history. As forest fires rage on in the northern part of the province, evacuees from the La Ronge area made their way south in search of safety Sunday.
With the latest mandatory evacuation order, the Red Cross is now providing shelter for around 6,700 people.
Regina is hosting more than 1,200 displaced northern residents, including Danielle Herman.
“I feel lost. It doesn’t feel like home,” she said.
Like many others, she boarded a bus in La Loche earlier this week, not knowing where it was going. She’s been separated from her family since and wants to know if they’re safe.
“We’re all split up in different locations,” said Herman, but she’s not alone.
“I’ve never seen my family since I came here,” said fellow La Loche resident Calvin Montgrend. “My dad’s in a wheelchair and I really want to find out where he is. I kind of miss my family right now.”
As of Sunday, evacuees unable to stay with family or friends were being housed in shelters and hotels by the Red Cross.
With space opening up at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, there are 1,500 beds still available in Saskatchewan. Despite that, 700 people from La Ronge are headed to an emergency shelter in Cold Lake, Alta.
“There are a number of things they have to look at, not just beds or locations,” said Cindy Fuchs with the Red Cross. “They have to look at other services and see whether they can actually provide (those) services.”
The Red Cross is also trying to prevent any more families from being separated.
“That’s another variable,” Fuchs said. “When we were evacuating communities from La Ronge, it would be great to keep those families together because then they would have community support while they’ve been evacuated.”
The organization currently has 120 volunteers actively helping evacuees with assistance coming from both Alberta and Manitoba.
At least one evacuee wanted to express his gratitude for their work.
“I want to thank them, that what they’re doing. Good job!” said Louis Laprise.
After spending four days in Regina, a lucky few from Ile-a-la-Crosse were allowed to go home Sunday, as a change in wind direction blew smoke away from the village.
“All of us are excited,” said Michael Caisse. “We were spending all this time here, and finally getting to go home now, we’re pretty happy.”
That’s something evacuees from the 50 other communities under evacuation orders desperately want.