Saskatoon, June: The only road in and out of Stanley Mission remained closed Friday as the wildfire threatening the community shifted unexpectedly Thursday evening.
Evacuation efforts were stopped and ground crews were forced to focus their attention to the encroaching fire.
“Everybody pitched in,” said Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) Chief Tammy Cook-Searson. “All hands were on deck so from 8 p.m. last night to about 1 a.m. was when the fire was very active.”
On Wednesday, around 1,000 residents with compromised health conditions were evacuated due to the increased smoke in the air.
LLRIB emergency management officer Maurice Ratt issued a general evacuation notice last night; all residents were to be on standby while the fire approached the community.
“We had to make the tough decision of keeping the community members in place last night for safety reasons because the fire was crossing the highway,” said Ratt. “There’s only one access road into Stanley Mission so we did not want to compromise their safety. So leadership decided that we needed to do a general evacuation for community of Stanley Mission last night and we began the evacuation this morning at 8 a.m.”
The fire has burned more than 6,200 hectares since last Friday, an area roughly the size of Prince Albert. Ratt says some buildings were lost, but fire crews safely worked through the night to protect the community and the vital highway.
“There’s no reports of injuries to any of our fire personnel or emergency personnel,” said Ratt. “We do know that we have lost several cabins, local cabins, trapper cabins. And as for the culture camp, it was saved as far as I know.”
Ratt says evacuees will be taken to Prince Albert, Saskatoon and even Regina, if necessary.
Residents were told to pack for five days.
Prince Albert Inn Front Desk Manager Angela Hendry started welcoming guests on Wednesday night, and she says accommodating evacuees is something they’re prepared for.
“We put everybody on notice,” said Hendry. “We do our best to accommodate people as they come in and make them comfortable. We know it’s a hard situation.”
She says everyone’s managing well considering the ordeal they’ve been through.
“They’re not in high spirits, but they’re ok. They’re dealing with it in the best way they can,” she said.
The last of the buses will have left the community by this evening, leaving behind the various agencies fighting the wildfire.