NEWS

Sask. Red Cross sheltering nearly 5K northern fire evacuees

07/01/2015 03:38 EDT | Updated 07/01/2016 05:59 EDT
Canadian Red Cross volunteers are working around the clock in evacuee shelters across Saskatchewan due to the ongoing northern wildfires. 

There are currently 4,878 evacuees who are being sheltered by the Red Cross. Evacuees are being given toiletries, baby supplies and three meals a day. 

On Tuesday, the Red Cross prepared for the number of evacuees in Regina to double. They opened two shelters in hockey rinks to accommodate 800 more people. 

There are currently 1,515 evacuees in the Queen City and 1,100 in Saskatoon. 

More than 1,800 people have also been set up in Prince Albert and 447 are in hotels in North Battleford.

On Wednesday, the organization said it was looking at adding another evacuation centre in a different city.

Officials preparing for more evacuees 

Cindy Fuchs, the Executive Director of the Canadian Red Cross in Saskatchewan said they have already started to consider different options, in case another centre is needed.

"To put in the time and effort to set up a congregate site, we like to have at least a place to put 500 people," Fuchs said.

"We are looking at all options like that outside of Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon."

They say they will consider opening up schools as shelter sites.

Fuchs says the evacuation and housing efforts in the wake of these wildfires are among the most extensive in her 30 years with the organization. 

"When I ran through those communities it made me think, 'this is complex.' This is the biggest that I have seen in my career at Red Cross," said Fuchs.

Security being ramped up

With hundreds of people housed in one space, Fuchs said people will begin to get a bit 'stir crazy'.

"They're coming from northern communities where they are fairly isolated and coming in to heavily populated communities where they actually have to live in a gymnasium. We call that complexity and so it causes all kinds of interesting things that we need to deal with," said Fuchs.

Fuchs said it is important to increase security in these types of situations.

"Our experience is the more you're together, sort of like a family, the more intense it gets," explained Fuchs, "So we plan for that and so we ramp our security as time goes on."

On Wednesday, some evacuees walked over to Mosaic Stadium to watch the Riders practice. Sasktel brought in big screen TVs to the Regina Eventplex and others have dropped off board games to keep people occupied.

Volunteers fighting fatigue

For volunteers, the biggest challenge may be fighting off fatigue. 

"People are getting tired. Not only the evacuees but so are our volunteers and workers," said Fuchs. 

Extra volunteers are being called in from across Canada but those who have not previously registered, will not be able to help. 

Fuchs added, "we need to have a vulnerable sector check and [volunteers] actually have to be registered; so we know who is in contact with, particularly children, in our centres."

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