Fire crews have been working around the clock to help keep the ‘TUFF’ wildfire away from people and structures on Waterhen and Jeannette Lakes at the Meadow Lake Provincial Park.
Waterhen Lake First Nation was evacuated Tuesday, May 15, while residents and cabin owners from Jeanette Lake were asked to leave the area the day before. Randy Songer, president of the cabin owners association for Jeannette Lake, said everyone managed to get out in time.
“The people who were there all left and found places to stay in Meadow Lake and surrounding areas,” he said. “As of this morning at 8 a.m. the fire patrol people, along with provincial park co-ordinators, have told us no structures have been lost. Bethel Gospel Camp and Oshkidee Church Camp, neither one has sustained any damage.”
He said sprinklers were set up behind cabins on Monday to soak the ground, which has saved structures from burning. He said he as both a resident of the region and president of the association, he is beyond thankful for the work and high level of communication coming from Saskatchewan's Environment Ministry.
“We’re just very thankful that the fire crews have done what they’ve done to save things at this time. There’s a roadblock set up and they’re asking people not to come so they don’t have to turn them away. We presume that as it passes, if there’s no further damage, we could be back into our cottages by the end of the week.”
The hundreds of residents ordered to leave Waterhen Lake First Nation were directed to the Flying Dust First Nation gymnasium, then taken to the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon.
Waterhen Chief Joanne Roy expressed thanks for the support her community has received from a number of agencies, including Meadow Lake Tribal Council, The Red Cross, and local community members. There are still staff members set up at the Flying Dust gymnasium serving food to displaced Waterhen First Nation community members.
Volunteers from Meadow Lake also have assisted with animal rescue efforts, and as of late last night, had registered 46 dogs and one cat.
During a media call Wednesday, Wildfire Management officials said the Tuff fire was measured at 2,600 hectares and evacuations had been necessary mainly because there is only one road in and out of the community of Waterhen Lake First Nation. Crews, equipment, and air tankers continue to work the fire with power lines and the highway being protected. Sprinkler units were also deployed on remote structures under threat.
Emergency Social Services confirmed 122 individuals had registered with the Red Cross in Saskatoon, including people staying at the congregate evacuation centre and those who are now with family and friends. ESS said a further 54 evacuees who had left the community Monday for health reasons are being accommodated at hotels in Meadow Lake.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 2:47 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 to add new information from Emergency Social Services and Wildfire Management.
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