September 12, 2017 6:04 pm
Updated: September 13, 2017 7:19 am

Prince Albert feeling the strain from wildfire evacuees

Officials say about 2,800 people have fled wildfires and more than two-thirds of them are staying in Prince Albert, while just over 800 are in Saskatoon.

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The northern Saskatchewan city of Prince Albert is feeling the strain of putting up wildfire evacuees.

Officials said about 2,800 people have fled forest fires and more than two-thirds of them are staying in Prince Albert, while just over 800 are in Saskatoon.

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READ MORE: Two northern Saskatchewan wildfires grow in size

Deanna Valentine, provincial co-ordinator for Emergency Social Services, said Prince Albert is at capacity.

Valentine said people might be congregating there because they think it will soon be time to head home.

She also suggested it could be that evacuees from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation may have more friends and family in Prince Albert.

She’s hoping some might consider moving to Saskatoon hotels to even out the burden.

“It does put stress on the health-care system [in Prince Albert] and the hotels, which have to increase everything from laundry to meals and other services,” she said.

READ MORE: Sask. wildfire evacuees rally government to allow them to aid in firefight

Saskatoon is “a little less crowded and … would have more breathing room.”

There are almost three dozen active wildfires in the province and three of the ones still of concern are in the northeast near Pelican Narrows.

Wildfire management spokesman Steve Roberts said the largest of the blazes, known as the Granite fire, has grown on its east side and moved closer to Tyrell Lake.

Because of that, Highway 106 was closed for a period of time.

There are four permanent residents in Tyrell Lake. The rest are seasonal.

Roberts said the fires are still too volatile to recommend a return for residents.

Fire safety commissioner Duane McKay has said the main focus is on stabilizing the fires and protecting critical infrastructure.

Ultimately it will be up to the Prince Albert Grand Council and the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation when people are allowed to return, he said.

“We have a high degree of confidence the chief will be given good information on which to make a decision,” McKay said Monday.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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