Hundreds to return home after wildfire evacuation orders lifted

Hundreds of wildfire evacuees in Saskatchewan are to return home as heavy smoke in the northern region appears to have subsided.

Community leaders say they have lifted most evacuation orders for Buffalo Narrows, Buffalo River Dene Nation and Île-à-la-Crosse.

Air quality statements in those communities are rated as low risk as of Thursday afternoon.

Buffalo Narrows Mayor Sandy Ericson says most of the roughly 600 people who fled the area are expected to return home.

She says people with health issues or young children can still stay back in case they need supports.

Buffalo River Dene Nation Chief Norma Catarat says 411 people returned home as of Wednesday evening and more are expected to make their way back.

Catarat said 200 members are to remain in Lloydminster, where they are receiving supports.

She said those required to stay back either have health issues, are elders or have children under five years old.

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency is not expected to provide an update on Thursday.

The agency’s website says that as of Thursday afternoon, crews were battling 24 fires. Six of them are contained and three require crews to protect property.

Officials have said some rain and cooler temperatures have helped firefighters battle the flames.

The agency lifted a provincial fire ban on Wednesday, though northern communities continue to have local bans and restrictions in place.

The agency has been supporting hundreds of people from the region over the past week in Lloydminster, North Battleford and Regina.

Ericson said people in her community are feeling relieved to be able to return home.

“People are very happy,” she said. “It has been a long wait to come here and the air quality has improved significantly.”

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