Buses prepare to load up for evacuees on Monday morning. Photo courtesy Vanessa Linklater-McCallum.

Between 450 and 500 Pelican Narrows residents were heading to accommodations in Saskatoon due to road closures and smoke caused by a number of wildfires in the region, expected to arrive around 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

As of noon on Tuesday, school buses and charter buses were at the Wapawikoscikan Community School, loading up with evacuees. There are 150 health priority residents who are subject to evacuation orders that will see them housed in hotels until the fires ease up. Those with compromised health, Elders, the very young and high-risk pregnant women are among those included in the health priority category. A further 300 or so people will be staying at a congregate shelter being set up by the Canadian Red Cross and Emergency Social Services at the Hank Reyes Soccer Centre or with family and friends.

In an interview with MBC, Chief Peter Beatty said the move is precautionary “because the information that we have is that we don’t want them to be having any difficulties getting out of the community” if Highway 135 becomes blocked. That highway is currently open but the Hanson Lake Road to Creighton and Flin Flon, Highway 106, is not.

The Level 1 evacuation notice was issued by the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation on Monday night and posted on Facebook and on Tuesday it was extended to Priority 2 and 3 residents as well. A message from band councillor Weldon McCallum urged people to register in Pelican Narrows before leaving in order to get proper coverage for accommodations and meals once in Saskatoon.

A message from the province on Tuesday afternoon expands on a previous announcement on who will be covered by ESS. The province says all evacuees, including family of the priority residents, will be covered.

“Evacuees receive emergency assistance in the form of food, clothing, shelter, hygiene items, referrals and other necessities. They receive three nutritious meals a day at the shelters, as well as snacks. Daily activities, such as games, movie nights, and musical entertainment are also coordinated within the shelters,” the province’s statement says.

The wildfire situation had improved somewhat on Monday, but a shift in winds has resulted in worsening conditions and closed roads.

There are two fires burning in the area, one known as the Granite Fire, about 15 kilometres south of Pelican Narrows.

The other fire is north of the community, but both are still burning out of control.

On Friday, the settlement of Birch Portage, consisting of 17 residents was evacuated. It is located about 70 kilometres south of Pelican Narrows. Twelve of those residents are staying at hotels in Prince Albert. Emergency Social Services is supporting both the Birch Portage and Pelican Narrows evacuees.

McCallum issued a further statement after 2 p.m. on Tuesday calling for volunteers at Pelican Narrows:

“** Attention Community Members **

We are starting up a list of community volunteers. If you are interested please sign up with Betty Wanda at The Haven or call 306.632.0409 or even stop in for some soup and sandwiches she has going right now.

Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. We are taking a proactive approach to have the list of volunteers on hand if the help is needed.

Thank you very Much”

Creighton to Pelican Narrows Junction on Aug. 28. Photo courtesy of Facebook.