Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their communities due to wildfires in the north.

One of the areas hardest hit is the Buffalo River Dene Nation and Dillon area which have been evacuated due to the communities being threatened by both the Shaw and Vermette fires.

One of the people forced from their homes by the wildfires is Freddy Byhatte, who has been evacuated to LIoydminister with his family. Byhatte told MBC Radio News he and his family were just returning to their home in Buffalo River last week after making a trip to Prince Albert. He said they had to move quickly.

“We didn’t even have time to do anything, we just walked into our house, we grab whatever we can and we left again,” he said.

Byhatte said being forced to evacuate was at times scary as he could see fires around Dillon.

According to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) 650 members of the Buffalo River Dene Nation are in LIoydminister after being evacuated due to the fire. They are being supported by ISC and the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC). Byhatte said the evacuation has especially been hard on Elders, who he believes are in need of additional supports.

“These elderly people they’ve (been) removed from our communities into a strange place where they don’t even speak English and that’s how they’ve been treated,” he said.

The Buffalo River Dene Nation and Dillon were previously forced to evacuate due to wildfires two years ago. Byhatte believes the provincial government’s current policy to deal with wildfires is not aggressive enough and amounts to a “let it burn policy.” This criticism is one which has also been leveled at the province by some northern leaders. For its part the province has denied it has such a policy and argued they base their response to fires on protecting communities and infrastructure.

Overall Byhatte believes the province should be putting more resources on the front lines to battle the fires. He added they should look to people in the north for help.

“There’s a lot of people out there in the northwest side that all (are) certified firefighters,” he said.

(Top Photo courtesy of SGI Canada Facebook.)