Prince Albert hotels were serving as temporary homes to several dozen evacuees from the northern community of Fond du Lac on Monday.
Elders, some children and people with medical conditions were flown into the city on Sunday after thick smoke blew in from a nearby fire.
Evacuees are being housed at the Prince Albert Inn, the Days Inn and a few other places.
Jenny Nichol lives in La Ronge but is originally from Fond du Lac.
Outside the Prince Albert Inn on Sunday night, she was busy coordinating activities for relatives and passing out information.
She says she noticed the fire a few days ago while visiting family in the northern community, as embers drifted across Lake Athabasca and the heat rose.
Fire officials report the blaze started a few weeks ago on the south side of the lake.
The fire was originally 10 hectares but has increased significantly in size since then.
Nichol says the blaze has affected many local residents.
“During the evening, the smoke was getting thicker and thicker in Fond du Lac, I mean you couldn’t even drive a vehicle,” she says. “Smoke was so thick it was kind of like burning your eyes.”
She says she and her sister made some phone calls to the fire commission asking why no one was being evacuated.
“Everybody was too scared to sleep I think because of the smoke,” she says. “It was so thick. We had to cover our windows with towels and the doors with blankets. We even had to pull our dryer vents and cover those because otherwise the smoke would be in the house.”
Nichol stresses she believes the chief and the council have been doing everything they can to help local residents.
Already some evacuees are showing anger with the government’s treatment of the situation.
Alex Mercredi is a Fond du Lac resident who came in from Calgary when he heard his parents were being evacuated.
He says he is appalled it took the authorities so long to act on the fire and move people out of danger.
“Because some of these people are not from here and they’re not accustomed to this realm of city life,” he says. “When their traditional lands are threatened, they really have nowhere else to go.”
Mecredi adds some people have been traumatized by the fire as a result of not being evacuated sooner.
“I thought I’d lend a hand out here and give some spiritual and emotional support,” he says.
Nichol says the kids staying in Prince Albert need activities to do, but unfortunately most of their parents don’t have a lot of money.
The lobby of the Prince Albert Inn was a steady stream of evacuees and family members who were standing and talking with one another.
Many were trying to explain the size and fury of the blaze.
Elder John James Mercredi says it was something that took his breath away.
“About a mile long, not smoke, fire…fire…real high,” he says.
He says the fire started a while ago on a windy afternoon, but it was not attended to when it first erupted.
Government officials say crews have been battling the fire for a couple of weeks, but had to back off recently when the flames became too intense. They say extreme precautions have been taken because the fire has been dangerously hot and unpredictable.