All but two Manitoba First Nations have been able to return home as massive wildfires continue to burn through northern Manitoba.
A combined 1,450 residents of Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids First Nations have been staying in hotels across Winnipeg for more than four weeks.
“As long as my family is here, it’s okay,” said Eric Owen, an evacuee from Little Grand Rapids.
Owens is being told it could be quite a while before a flight home is in the cards.
“With the conditions back home, they say approximately March,” he said.
“That’s going to be too long.”
Other evacuees told Global News that an October return was mentioned to some as well.
The Canadian Red Cross is ramping up local efforts geared toward making life more comfortable for evacuees.
Red Cross spokesman Jason Small said the agency is “coordinating flights out of the home communities, setting up the hotels, setting up regular meals and providing any other necessary supports that are needed such as hygiene kits, baby formula, diapers and also working with our other partners to provide referrals and support.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, 124 wildfires were actively burning throughout Manitoba.
The ongoing collaborative work with other organizations includes working with the City of Winnipeg to access recreation time at numerous city facilities.
“We’ve been bringing children every day to an outdoor location where we’ve been doing things like Indigenous games, they do drumming, they’re making ribbon skirts, they’re doing things with the children and the families as well to keep them engaged,” said Jackie Anderson, the program coordinator for the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.
The centre has been assisting with Manitoban wildfire evacuees for four years and counting.
Anderson is stressing the importance of making the remaining evacuees feel at home.
“They’re tired, they’re anxious, they want to go home and that’s what you see and you feel,” she said.