Let it burn policy does not work for Chiefs

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By Susan McNeil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Chiefs of both Red Earth and Shoal Lake Cree Nations have said the province is not taking enough action on two fires that are filling their communities with smoke and causing evacuations.
Both Marcel Head and Fabian Head said that the government needs to treat the fires near their communities the same as they did the fires near Prince Albert and Smeaton earlier this summer. Both Chiefs flew over the Pasquia Hills and the Crackling Fire on October 4 with the Public Safety Agency.
“There was absolutely no machinery, no crews, no aircraft, no air tankers fighting the blaze. There was something obviously wrong,” said Marcel Head, Chief of the Shoal Lake Cree Nation. “We will find out what the problem is. If the premier is listening, we’re telling the province to get their act together and put some resources and put some manpower and heavy equipment into our area and fight these fires.”
He stated that the province has opted to let some fires burn but the communities most impacted need to be included in the discussions.
The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency says that is not the case and that the Chiefs may not have seen the work that is being done because of either the smoke or the decision of the pilot not to fly near the head of the fire, where the resources are deployed.
“The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) is responding to several fires in the area near Hudson Bay, Sask., including Red Earth Cree Nation and Shoal Lake Cree Nation, by recalling and redeploying crews from across the province and attacking the fire with tanker, helicopter and ground crews,” said Christopher Clemett, acting executive director of the Agency, on October 5. “Crews have also been redeployed to address smaller fire starts in the area in order to prevent them from growing into larger fires.”
He also said that some of those crews are from the evacuated area.
“Currently, four Type 2 crews (including three from Red Earth Cree Nation and Shoal Lake Cree Nation) have been deployed on fires in this area. Additional Type 3 firefighters from Shoal Lake have been hired for these fires. Weyerhaeuser forestry staff and equipment have also been assisting with fire response efforts,” stated Clemett.
Both Chiefs, however, say they have had difficulty in communicating with...continued

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