Watch above: It’s the largest evacuation in the province’s history and the wildfires have left many displaced residents separated from family and friends. Joel Senick finds out how evacuees are reconnecting and who’s helping to achieve that.
SASKATOON – Saskatchewan wildfire evacuee Michael Thackeray, from Montreal Lake, spends part of his day online. He’s checking back home and communicating with family, seeing and hoping to go home soon.
Thackeray is one of the roughly 7,900 registered evacuees displaced by the blazes in northern parts of the province.
For many, getting in contract with loved ones means logging on.
“Facebook is the only way to get ahold of family, wherever you’re at,” said evacuee Ben Sanderon, of Hall Lake.
Saskatoon’s public libraries could be making the connection easier. Their doors are open to evacuees who want to freely use computers at branches near shelters.
“There’s an issue people are having, if we can step in and do our part to help, then we’re happy to do that,” said Carol Cooley, CEO of Saskatoon Public Library.
It’s an issue that’s present across the province. Red Cross officials say many of their shelters do not feature internet access at this time.
“We are looking with a private provider to this option, so it’s hopefully something that we could set up where possible,” said J.P. Taschereau, with the Canadian Red Cross.
For Thackeray and others, the issue goes beyond a Wi-Fi signal; he doesn’t own a cell phone and doesn’t want to be a hassle either.
“People have their own phones and doing their own communicating with their own families … Try not to bother them,” said Thackeray.
This makes social media websites all the more important to reach family members and bring peace of mind hundreds of miles from home. One less thing to worry about, in a situation that could produce many more.
Joel Senick contributed to this story