I've recently been seeing a lot of messages on my facebook feed from friends and family in Saskatchewan's north, many of them are now living in temporary shelters in different communities, refugees from the forest fires now eating their way closer towards LaRonge and other larger municipalities.
The extent of the fires is uprecedented. But that's not actually suprising to people who have been following events in Saskatchewan over the past few years. In 2013, very little coverage was given to the province's closing of the manned fire towers in the north, replaced by cameras that show very little.
Also, the province scaled back it's fire control budget, which has now been drained entirely, and have continued with a 'let it burn' policy in which no effort is made to fight a fire until it grows over 20 KM.
It is a curious policy in that it has been opposed by both major parties in the house, but only while in opposition when they weren't in a position to change it; the Sask Party attacked it when the NDP brought it in, and once the Sask Party took power the NDP criticized the Sask Party for keeping it in place.
Recently, provincial wildfire support services director Daryl Jessop explained and defended the policy while at the same time claiming it didn't exist. In his strange denial/explanation/defense of the policy he said that fires are assessed and they are generally left alone in 'observation zones' where "values are sparse", which makes economic sense, since they don't see a lot of values in mere trees since they just produce oxygen for the planet.
This has all been part of the provinces wonderful financial planning, they have reduced the cost of public service by not doing their job.
People in the area have been lining up to volunteer, but have been refused until recently even though there is a serious shortage of firefighters. Only last week the province agreed to fund more 3 day training sessions for the 'Type 3' Firefighter designation required.
This is a far cry from less than 20 years ago when a heavy fire season saw trucks driving around recruiting volunteers off the street in LaRonge and other towns.
The fast response with large numbers back then prevented the problem from becoming worse. This years disaster comes after years of slow cut-backs and a more lax attitude on the part of the Saskatchewan Government towards forest fires and decreasing opportunity for local involvement, all of this constitutes criminal negligence and/or sheer mental incompetence considering that the gradual rise in the average number and size of forest fires in Saskatchewan over the past 50 years , shown in the data on the Saskatchewan Government's own website, and this, especially in conjunction with the gradual increase in average temperatures due to climate change, should have indicated, to any sane and rational human being, a need for increased vigilance over that time and a plan for faster mobilization of local community members.
But let's move beyond the 'blame game' of whose responsible, what companies financed a denial campaign for almost 30 years while fully knowing that climate change was getting worse, who should have been given notice of the approaching fires sooner, or even who repeatedly mentioned, discussed and warned about a noticable increase in forest fires due to climate change over the years, and move onto the situation that exists right now. Because I'm seeing constant messages about right now, and these people are not interested in the background because they're more incensed about what's happening right now.
Some of the posts I've read recently are startling:
"Red Cross contacted me .Red Cross told me it is illegal to house people unless I'm an organization(which I'm not) . It's only legal if the person has the resources and THE RESERVE has to be okay with letting people on there land. So basically Kenton would be going to jail for helping the evacuees from the wildfires.
Share this and let's show the Red Cross that People can help people without having to worry about being prosecuted from the government. 7000 people are homeless . I know we can't help them all . But just maybe this message will be passed on towards other close reserves and they'll open up there Halls and there Homes towards theses families. Hiy Hiy"
Some have me trying to research another story:
If we still had our fleet of bombers this wouldnt be so hard to fight.. i remember when we were kids we had 17 water bombers.. more than anyone else in Canada. .. what happened to all our planes!!! I hear we are down to 2 planes now wth??
Not real sure. We used to have the best of it all when it came down to forest fire fighting. We had the smoke jumpers and the bombers
Government cut backdThey would have had these fires under control by now if we still had our planes frown emoticon just another one of Harpers harmless little cutbacks grumpy emoticon
Some are practical yet inspiring: As Prince Albert SPCA is now closed ( although many are working after hours for those who called in before after hours) and aren't able to take in animals tonight, I am willing to make trips to Saskatoon to Hanna's Haven Dog Rescue to transport animals that need to be fostered! Please ibm or comment
Also watching the Facebook Group 'Sask Evacuations Helping One Another':
We got evacuated to pa from laronge and Me an my family need a place to stay 5 kids 2 teens and 3 adults and 1 little baby that has a heart problem and he's getting sick, my mom has no idea what to do we tried going to the Red Cross and they didn't want to help us get a hotel or anything, my mom had to sleep in her van with her sick baby. There is 11 of us all together we can't fit in this apartment that only has one room and a little living room. We need help to find a place or hotel
Some problems in the shelters:
It's getting bad here...my kids r sleeping but I'm so not going to bed...stuff have been getting stolen from kids while we are sleeping...two kids almost got kidnapped in the back here...young stupid punks walking around talking bout holding people down while they punch the shit out of them...ya I know it's somewhere to stay but it's scary because we r so far from home...oh n disrespectful little bastards telling the adults to shut up!! Like get real right...sorry for the rant...and also red cross ain't taking no donations...we get no coffee...we got to leave our kids unattended so we can go for a smoke...treated like prisoners here instead of evacuees...we r being watched till we fall asleep so these dumb shits can rob off us...thank god my brother got a locker to put our valuable stuff in n my kids toys...THIS IS BAD! WE NEED TO BE BACK IN OUR HOME PROVINCE WHERE PEOPLE CARE ABOUT US!!!! Ain't our fault...we were sent here against our will!!!
..and some more examples of frustrating bureaucratic ignorance:
A tent should've been set up for all the donations that we're giving out instead of dropping it off outside the hotels, the manager here at Lonestar motel threw them in garbage