Updated: Pelican Narrows evacuation order lifted

Evacuees fleeing northern wildfires will be able to return home starting this evening. Photo courtesy Government of Saskatchewan/Facebook

Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation chief Peter Beatty has lifted the general evacuation order for Pelican Narrows following recommendations of the province and its ministries.

The order has been lifted for general community members and priority 3 residents. The evacuation order remains in place for priority 1 and 2 persons due to concerns about smoke.

According to provincial emergency management officials, all of the requirements set out by the community as to when it would be safe return have been met. That includes a lack of direct fire threat to access roads, lack of direct fire threat to the community and vital infrastructure, air quality within acceptable limits and community services in place. All those conditions have been met. While there has been no significant rain in the area, work to contain the fire was successful, stabilizing the situation near the community and critical infrastructure. More favourable weather also helped, as cooler temperatures and lighter winds have given firefighters a bit of a reprieve.

The Wilkins fire, which is burning about 14 km south of Pelican Narrows, has been contained. The southeast corner of the Preston fire, about 3 km north of Pelican Narrows, has also been secured. The Granite fire is still and threatening Highway 106, along with the small communities of Jan Lake, Birch Portage and Tyrrell Lake.

Priority one and two people include pregnant or new moms, as well as those with chronic heart and lung conditions. While officials don’t have an exact number of people in that category, they do anticipate that less than 1,000 of the evacuated residents will need to stay in Saskatoon or P.A.

Whether it’s safe for those people to return will be based on the air quality. According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Health, air quality inside the fresh air shelter in Pelican Narrows, where an air scrubber is in place, is about 12.7 ppm. Nearby health clinics are at 30 ppm, while outside it’s about 65.

“Those are reasonable,” the spokesperson said. “When you get to the range of 100-150, it affects those with respiratory problems.”

While the air quality is fine right now, shifting winds still bring the potential of heavier smoke blowing in. That heavier smoke is what causes issues for those with health needs.

All evacuees in the Prince Albert area are required to check in at the Senator Allan Bird Memorial Centre. Anyone in Saskatoon is to check in at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre.

Evacuees are advised to bring their own supply of groceries wherever possible, and emergency social services will cover fuel allotments for personal vehicles.

In Prince Albert, evacuees must check in to receive their gas allotments. In Saskatoon, gas cards will be provided which can be redeemed at any Co-op gas station.

Bus transportation will begin tomorrow. To reserve a seat on the bus, evacuees need to add their name to the sign up sheet at either the Senator Allan Bird Memorial Centre or the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre.

As a road block is still in effect, convoys of 60 vehicles at a time will be allowed from Highway 135 and 106 beginning at 6 p.m. tonight.

SA recipients will be able to get early family mid-month cheques in both Saskatoon and Prince Albert. In P.A., band staff will be at the memorial centre to distribute cheques.

Pelican Narrows schools will re-open Monday.