By The Canadian Press
ST. THERESA POINT, Man. – Residents who were evacuated from a northern Manitoba First Nation because of a wildfire are allowed to return home.
The Canadian Red Cross, which has been managing the evacuation effort for the federal government, says leadership of St. Theresa Point has determined the community is safe and that evacuees would begin flying home Sunday.
The Red Cross says there were more than one thousand evacuees from the community who had registered with them.
More than 4,000 people were forced to leave their homes in three Indigenous communities — Garden Hill, Wasagamack and St. Theresa Point — when they were threatened by a large forest fire 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
The St. Theresa Point evacuees were initially brought to Winnipeg and Brandon, Man., with a small handful to Thompson, Man.
The Red Cross says additional flights to St. Theresa Point will happen Monday and that, ideally, all residents will be home in the next couple of days.
“It is great that the people of St. Theresa Point are able to head home and get back to their lives. For those evacuees still outside of their homes, the Red Cross team continues to work with the communities leaders to provide necessary support,” Shawn Feely, Canadian Red Cross vice-president, Manitoba and Nunavut, said in a news release.
The Red Cross says the decision on when to return home is made by each First Nation, in consultation with the federal government.
Evacuations of the three communities started on Aug. 29. Wasagamack First Nation was fully evacuated, while people with health concerns were evacuated from St. Theresa Point and Garden Hill.
Almost half of the evacuees were put up initially in large shelters inside a soccer facility and at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, but the Red Cross closed the shelter at the convention centre last week when it said more hotel rooms in the city were available.
The Manitoba government said Friday the wildfire near Wasagamack was being held approximately one kilometre from the community, and that it was over 28,000 hectares in size.
It said recent precipitation helped to keep fire activity low, while winds are were expected to keep smoke and flames away from the communities over the weekend.