Residents from the northern Saskatchewan community of Southend were returning to their homes Tuesday.

About 950 people were forced from their homes June 19 due to a wildfire burning about 15 kilometres south of the community.

However, the general evacuation order for Southend was lifted late Monday afternoon.

Ministry of Environment Director of Wildfire Operations Scott Wasylenchuk says although the Woods fire is still not contained, the blaze is not moving any closer to the community.

“We feel that we have secured and done a really good work on the west side and now moving down the east flank, so the threat, from our perspective, is of course less than it was when the people were removed,” he says.

Ministry of Social Services official Deanna Valentine says various agencies are currently working together to get Southend residents back home.

“We have buses running to both Saskatoon and Prince Albert, late morning/early afternoon, to get people home on the bus,” she says. “And we’ve also been working with the community and the federal government and Red Cross to provide gas, money and vouchers to people who have their own vehicles.”

Valentine says about 579 people from Southend were evacuated to Prince Albert, 68 to Saskatoon, 28 to La Ronge and 300 to various camps along the lake near Southend.

It is still recommended residents with various health issues not return to the community due to smoke concerns.

These health issues include those with heart or lung problems, on dialysis, children under one year of age, elderly people with mobility problems, disability concerns and prenatals due in June or July.

The Woods fire currently sits at about 9,320 hectares.

(PHOTO: Southend fire. Photo courtesy of Pauline Clarke, Facebook)