Flights carrying northwestern Ontario evacuees are continuing to arrive in Saskatchewan cities over the next couple days as wildfires are ravaging near their communities.
It was confirmed late Friday morning that around 300 people landed in Regina on Thursday after initial estimates were set at approximately 400 arriving at the airport.
300 more evacuees are expected to land in the Queen City throughout the day Friday and 200 are set to be in Saskatoon on Saturday. Prince Albert could also be taking in Ontario residents if limits are reached in Regina and Saskatoon.
In Regina, bus loads of people have been transported to a couple different locations in the city. The majority are staying in dorms at the University of Regina with a maximum of 500 occupants; 150 will be moved to local hotels.
Saskatchewan Fire Commissioner Duane McKay said a lot has been taking place over the last couple days, but he’s happy to report the operation is strongly coordinated early on.
“We’ll obviously be keeping in close contact with Ontario to see how long they need to be here, what kind of things we can do to make this as pleasant as possible, and eventually get them back safely to their communities as soon as possible,”
The Government of Ontario requested that Saskatchewan be prepared to bring in 2,000-3,000 evacuees for this operation.
There’s enough resources to last residents for up to a month, but what will happen if their stay is extended if the wildfire situation worsens or doesn’t change?
McKay explained how their strategy is set for a minimum of two weeks and can go up to a month, and that the planning for repatriation has already begun.
“Whether that occurs in a week or two weeks, it all depends on the fire situation. Ultimately, at the end of the day, people want to be at home,” said McKay. “As soon as this situation is ready, Ontario will be ready and will want to bring people back to their homes.”
In the meantime, Canadian Red Cross personnel and other volunteers will be keeping evacuees busy with culturally-accepted activities for the adults and children.
Organizers are also focusing on making sure evacuees have the availability to move wherever they need to go during their time in Regina or Saskatoon.
McKay added that the support from Saskatchewan Indigenous groups and organizations such as the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and tribal councils across the province has been “phenomenal” during this process.