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Lloydminster opens it heart to embrace fire evacuees

Chief Norma Catarat of the Buffalo River Dene First Nation is expressing her gratitude to Lloydminster as some 840 fire evacuees are now in the Border City due to wildfires affecting their homes.

Since Tuesday, the group that includes as well the communities of Dillon and Buffalo Narrows were bussed in and are staying at local hotels.

Catarat says the people are receiving counselling from FSIN, SPSA and MLTC staff among others and the City has very welcoming as they grapple with the loss back home that includes cabins and traditional hunting, fishing and trapping lands. She adds further that the land around the highway is blackened, the smoke from the fires makes it impossible to see and they have no idea when they will be able to return home.

She shared that a laundromat that closes at 7 p.m. stayed open until 11 p.m. so that they could get their clothes washed and at Walmart people offered to pay their bill and bought toys for the children.

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Catarat says she feels the caring and empathy coming from the Lloydminster community.

“It’s overwhelming support. It makes you cry. It tears you up knowing that these people are willing to help. When we were having lunch, one of the ladies sat down with us and she cried because she said she can’t imagine what you guys are going through.”

The evacuees have been provided with recreation passes to various activities to keep the people occupied as they continue to process the grief and loss, says Catarat. Also, the Elders benefitted from a trip to Lac St. Anne and the priests there joined in praying for rain and the wellbeing of the people.

Head of emergency management Andrew DeGruchy says several Lloydminster groups are pitching in including the Salvation Army, Girl Guides, Lloyd Ex, Cenovus, Synergy Credit Union and Midwest Indigenous Society who are actively collecting donations.

Luc Mullinder vice president with the Canadian Red Cross in Saskatchewan shares another way that people can help as he said they are walking alongside an Indigenous nation-to-nation support system.

“I think that the best thing that people can do is donate their time. Unfortunately, the changing landscape of our environment, especially here in Saskatchewan, we are anticipating more of this. I want to remind everybody that it’s only May and these challenges historically come later in the summer.”

He echoed Chief Norma’s comments further by saying that the community needs to surround the evacuees with as much love and positivity as possible.”

Looking to the weather forecast, Chief Norma says she hopes the chance of rain moves to 100 per cent over May long.

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