It’s the news Pelican Narrows residents have been waiting for.
The Evacuation Order issued August 29 was rescinded Wednesday afternoon and many of the 2,700 evacuees in Prince Albert and Saskatoon were to return home immediately.
Steve Roberts with Wildfire Management said a combination of factors prompted the recommendation to allow people to go back.
“Our focus was on the areas around the critical infrastructure and communities,” Roberts said in a media call Wednesday. “We believe that work has paid off and we’re comfortable with the security. In addition to that, we‘re not seeing precipitation, but we are seeing daytime highs only in the teens and overnight temperatures in the single digits, so that’s helping us get a handle on the fires as well.”
The lifting of the Evacuation Order covers all General Community Members and those who do not suffer from chronic heart or respiratory issues. Those with health issues, pregnant women and infants were not among those expected to return home immediately.
Ray Unrau, Deputy Commissioner of Fire Safety, listed four key elements they considered before recommending the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation lift the order:
“A lack of direct fire threat to the access in and out of the community, lack of fire threat to the community itself or infrastructure, air quality is within acceptable limits, and critical services will be in the community when people arrive,” said Unrau.
The first returning evacuees - those who fled in private vehicles - were expected to reach Pelican Narrows Wednesday night under police escort. Those who left the community by bus would return by bus Thursday.
Unrau made it clear smoke was still an issue for the community and others in the region.
“We have air scrubbers which will provide clean air in Pelican Narrows, Sandy Bay and Deschambault Lake,” he said.
While the flank of the wildfire closest to Pelican Narrows is now secure, that is not the case for the fire burning close to Jan Lake and Birch Portage. Those communities remain under an evacuation order.
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