Henk Ruys Soccer Centre, Saskatoon. Courtesy of Vanessa Lynn Linklater McCallum.

Evacuees are being moved out of a soccer centre in Saskatoon and into hotels, while more men and equipment are being put on the front lines of forest fires near Pelican Narrows.

Meantime, some residents who were evacuated from Sandy Bay last week are being allowed back home, but only with an escort. Nearly 300 firefighters are involved in the efforts today, which is up from 140 a week ago. Twenty helicopters, 20 pieces of heavy equipment and air tankers are also being used.

Steve Roberts with wildfire management says more crews could not be brought in until the fires had stabilized and it was safe.

“In the Pelican Narrows area because it was dry and because of all the top fuel, and because of the wind shifts we have had very few areas where we have been able to stabilize the fire, so it was safe to put people on the ground in front of such a large fire,” he said.

Only about 160 evacuees remain at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre. Another 500 have been moved to hotels, while 182 are staying with family and friends.

Deanna Valentine with emergency social services says the placement of people is determined by need.

“Little babies, pregnant moms, people with pre-existing health conditions — generally will do better in a hotel, and we work with health to determine who should go where,” she said.

In all, about 2,500 people were evacuated from Pelican Narrows, with about 350 staying behind. So far, the fires have not caused any loss of structure.

The fires have burned to within three kilometres of Pelican Narrows. In total, they have consumed more than 1,100 square kilometres or forest. The largest fire is about 650 square kilometres in size.

While the fire situation is stable, there is no relief in sight in the weather. The two-week forecast calls for continued warm dry conditions with no significant rainfall.