Pelican Narrows under mandatory evacuation due to forest fires
- EFN Staff | August 31, 2017
Tuesday was the first day of school for students in Pelican Narrows but everyone was dismissed along with other residents to evacuate their community. The community of Pelican Narrows - more than 450 people - in northern Saskatchewan has been evacuated due to heavy smoke from nearby wildfires. The leadership of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) has issued a mandatory evacuation order for all residents of Pelican Narrows.
According to a Facebook post by PBCN Vice-Chief Harold Linklater, he said the fire to the north of Pelican Narrows is threatening their community.
“We are taking necessary precautions to ensure safety for our community residents,” he posted. “Buses will be escorted in and out of Pelican for as long as they can.”
Linklater also said that there will only be boats to evacuate band members across the lake if the fire reaches their community.
“There are preparations if the call is made to evacuate people by boats,” said Pelican Narrows band councillor Weldon McCallum.
McCallum said there are residents that are still in the community who refuse to leave. A few of the band councillors along with McCallum have been going house to house delivering the mandatory evacuation order and also to ensure no one is left behind.
“There are some people who are not cooperating,” he said. “We will be enforcing the evacuation and removing people from their if necessary if that time comes.”
He added that residents were instructed to untie their pets and animals so they can save themselves if the fire reaches their community. There are three band councillors that are left behind to stay with the members who are still within the community to ensure their safety.
“Me and colleagues have decided to stay for as long as we can with our people to make sure the evacuation is running smoothly,” McCallum said.
He described the appearance of Pelican Narrows as clouded with heavy smoke and windy. Most remaining people are using masks to cover their mouths from breathing in the smoke. Due to the community being surrounded by three fires, McCallum said the smoke will only be getting stronger.
The evacuees were sent to Saskatoon and Prince Albert Tuesday and transported more residents yesterday.
“The hospitality of people everywhere needs a little bit of light shined on,” said Pelican Narrows resident, Angie Merasty. “The generosity of people coming together in times like this is what I’m trying to focus my attention on and do as much as I can with Red Cross.”
The Pelican Narrows and PBCN are working alongside with the Red Cross and other organizations in Prince Albert and Saskatoon to ensure their evacuated band members are looked after. Chris Clemett, the communications manager of Red Cross, said the evacuees are placed at the Henk Ruys soccer centre in Saskatoon.
“We are hosting over 470 people…there’s room for about 600,” said Clemett. “We’re prepared to accept more evacuees at the shelter up until we’re at capacity.”
The Red Cross is providing recreation as well as a temporary shelter and food is being supplied by the Salvation Army.
“There’s a pool nearby where the kids went swimming…we’re doing things to keep busy,” he said. “We met with each of the evacuees and assess their needs. There’s many young families that need diapers, clothing and formula all of what we’re able to provide.”
McCallum said there are 4,400 Pelican Narrows band members and the exact number of on reserve members is not known. It’s too early to determine when the evacuees will be allowed to return to their homes in Pelican Narrows.