Stories of hardship, perseverance and the true meaning of community are some of the memories La Ronge and area residents are sharing as part of a case study about wildfires.
A collaboration between the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina, the study is being led by PhD candidate Heidi Walker who moved to La Ronge in May. Since then, she’s been interviewing residents from La Ronge and other surrounding communities about their experiences with wildfires, particularly in the summer of 2015 and the wide-scale evacuation which occurred.
“I’ve been hearing people say a major forest fire experience like this has been one of most profound experiences of their lives,” Walker said. “It was a hard experience for many people, but I’ve also been hearing about the strength of individuals in the communities. I’ve heard inspiring stories about how people helped each other out during and after the fires.”
Walker noted the project aims to examine several aspects of the wildfire such as the social dimensions of climate hazards. She added the tri-communities is an interesting place to study because it’s rich in social and cultural diversities, as well as the jurisdictional complexities involved due the communities being adjacent to one another. Walker also wants to examine how social factors such as gender, age, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic issues and a history of colonization influenced people’s experiences.
It’s important to undertake such research, Walker said, because it will assist in building an inclusive emergency response and long-term planning for future events. Once the information phase of the study is complete, Walker will analyze the data and create a report which will then be available to the public.
“Often in an emergency situation like this, we don’t necessarily hear everyone’s stories,” she said. “We often hear from a lot of the experts and officials, but we don’t hear about the range of experiences people have. Just listening to some of those experiences can really contribute to how we respond to these types of events.”
Anyone wishing to have their wildfire experiences recorded for the study can contact Walker via Facebook. She said all stories residents share will be kept confidential.
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