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Home News Red Earth and Shoal Lake Chiefs call on provincial government to mobilise more wildfire fighting resources following evacuations

Red Earth and Shoal Lake Chiefs call on provincial government to mobilise more wildfire fighting resources following evacuations

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Red Earth and Shoal Lake Chiefs call on provincial government to mobilise more wildfire fighting resources following evacuations
A helicopter takes off while a wildfire crew prepares to move out near the Bell Fire. -- Submitted photo.

Leaders from Red Earth Cree Nation and Shoal Lake Cree Nation have called on the provincial government to put more resources into fighting wildfires burning near the two communities.

Red Earth Chief Fabian Head and Shoal Lake Chief Marcel Head issued a press release on Monday saying they were deeply concerned about the threat wildfires posted to their communities. Roughly 440 Shoal Lake residents were evacuated to Prince Albert on Thursday, while some Red Earth Cree Nation residents were evacuated to Saskatoon and Regina on Monday.

“An evacuation order was something we did not wish to have to call,” Marcel Head said in a press release. “It is a very traumatic ordeal for our people, but we need to keep health, wellness, and safety of all our people front and centre.”

This is the second time Shoal Lake residents have had to be evacuated this summer. Marcel thanked the community’s emergency response team for helping with the evacuation efforts, which have helped keep vulnerable residents safe. However, he said the fire is causing problems with community land, and that’s going to make it difficult to maintain a traditional way of life.

“Our economies are dependent on a healthy and vibrant territorial land base for our people, and for the animals, birds, fish, plants, insects and waters,” Marcel said. “We are communities that follow the ‘Cree way of life,’ and we continue to be based on a hunter-gatherer-based economy. If the province does not put more resources into fighting the wildfires, our communities will suffer from its impacts for years to come.”

The Bell Fire is the largest fire burning in the area, but both chiefs said it’s smaller fires in the Crackling River and Pasquia Hills areas that are of bigger concern. The leaders thanked the SPSA for sending three helicopters, tankers, and fire suppression crews to support the efforts, but said it’s not enough to keep the area safe.

“Given both the short-term and long-term threats of the wildfires, we urge the government of Saskatchewan to act, and to mobilize their available resources to enhance and expand the effort to extinguish the wildfires in our areas,” Chief Fabian Head said. “(This is) for the sake and safety of our people, and for the lands and all the resources upon which we have sustained ourselves for generations.”

An SPSA spokesperson said the organization has recalled and redeployed crews from across the province to help deal with deal with the fire situation in the Hudson Bay area. The fires near Red Earth and Shoal Lake are among multiple fires burning in the area.

There are currently four Type 2 Crews, including three from Red Earth and Shoal Lake, deployed in the area. Additional Type 3 firefighters from Shoal Lake have been hired, and the SPSA continues to reach out to local communities to hire qualified Type 2 and Type 3 crews.

The spokesperson said there are currently 13 wildfires burning in the province, seven of which are in the East-Central part of the province.

To date, Saskatchewan has had 605 wildfires—a total more than double the five-year average of 299.

The SPSA has issued a fire ban for crown lands in the area. The organization encourages anyone affected by the smoke to stay indoors at this time.