Southend wildfire threat diminishes as officials prep for evacuees' return

By Glenn Hicks
June 26, 2018 - 12:24pm

Repatriation of hundreds of people back to the northern community of Southend has begun after the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation rescinded its general evacuation order late Monday.

On Tuesday wildfire officials said the risk of the 'Woods' wildfire nearby had diminished, with no growth towards Southend to the north or Brabant to the west. The key access roads were also no longer at risk.

The fire forced a general evacuation a week ago, though many are expected to return home by bus and private vehicles through the afternoon.

“We have people on the ground in Southend preparing for repatriation,” Emergency Management Spokesperson Ray Unrau told reporters during a media briefing Tuesday. “These would include things like taking down value protection sprinklers, which would be in people’s way when they get home, and [setting up] equipment like air scrubbers if smoke becomes an issue.”

A total of 893 people were registered as evacuees as of yesterday, officials said, with 579 stating in Prince Albert at hotels or with family and friends. A total of 300 people relocated to various camps on Reindeer Lake when the evacuation order was issued last Tuesday. Only residents with health issues were being asked to remain outside of the community for the time being, though the possibility of smoky skies is something that officials are preparing for.

“We’re working with the community to supply some cots to Southend, so they can set up a clean air shelter,” Deanna Valentine, with Emergency Social Services, said. “If there is smoky conditions they will have somewhere to go.”

As for the wider provincial wildfire situation, officials said lightning strikes have caused 13 new fire starts in the past 24 hours. That took the number of new fires to 63 in the span of five days, though cooler and wetter conditions over the next few days were expected to allow crews to make headway in their battles with many of those blazes.


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