Premier Brad Wall is in the thick of things today visiting La Ronge for a first-hand look at the forest fire situation. The premier also took part in the morning briefing with reporters to give his perspective on a crises situation that has now forced more than 52 hundred people from their homes.
The premier is on the front lines, meeting with local government officials and fire-fighting crews. He is in La Ronge today to get a first-hand look at how crews are holding up and how big of a challenge they are facing. He had nothing but praise for everyone involved
“This is an amazing effort that has happened.” He says. “ I wish I could adequately explain to the rest of the province just how amazing these folks are, both from the provincial government but also the local leadership we have seen from the mayors of Air Ronge, La Ronge and La Loche and chief Tammy Cook-Searson and the chief of Montreal Lake.”
There are currently 107 fires burning in the province, 28 are out of control, including a 580 square kilometer fire about 10 kilometers north of La Ronge. Daryl Jessop, the director of wildfire support services says a change in the weather gave crews a chance to make some progress yesterday but says heavy smoke is grounding most of the air attack today. He also attempted to clarify the departments policy on how it reacts to fires burning close to communities. He says there is no hard and fast rule on a 20 kilometer zone.
“We assess every fire and make a decision on how we address those fires based on the values at risk and the overall situation.” He says. “ The fires that threaten a community are always a priority and the fires don’t have to be in the zone to take action, so I just wanted to make that very clear because there seems to be some misunderstanding there.”
Evacuation centres are rapidly filling up, or are already filled to capacity. There are evacuees from 55 Northern Communities staying at shelters in North Battleford, Prince Albert, two in Saskatoon and two in Regina.
Karri Kempf, the emergency services manager with the social services department, says some evacuees are moving out of the shelters.
“What is starting to happen now as we move a few more days into the event is evacuees are starting to make more friend and family connections so some of them are moving for that region she says.
Getting a damage estimate from the fires is difficult at this point. There is one clarification today from wildfire management. It says the home that was reported destroyed yesterday was actually burned several weeks ago. It was located about 20 kilometers southwest of La Ronge. About 14 cabins have also been destroyed, they were also burned down several weeks ago. Getting an update on the latest fire damage won’t be known until the fires are out and an accurate assessment can be made.