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Lac La Ronge Indian Band bets big on 'air scrubbers' to help combat wildfire smoke

The Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) has purchased 20 "air scrubbers" because the smoke from the northern wildfires has significantly impacted its air quality.

The machines, which act as purifiers, will be placed in multiple community centers in the area, according to LLRIB emergency coordinator, Maurice Ratt.

"We purchased these in the hopes that we don't have to evacuate anybody because of the smoke conditions. We'd rather have them in the community and keep them safe," Ratt said in an interview.

He said the band has two machines on loan from the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA), but they recently bought 20 of their own machines. Ratt said to do so, the LLRIB applied for an advance from Indigenous Services Canada because each machine cost's about $3,800.

"The program I go through is called the Emergency Management Assistance Program. They were able to authorize that purchase and justify our needs for it," he said.

Ratt notes the machines are available to anyone in the surrounding area.

For one Air Ronge resident, the smoke is an ominous reminder of the 2015 La Ronge wildfires when she and her family were forced to evacuate the area.

"Flashback trying to drive south with the kids. The fires jumping the highway," Shala Ricklefs told CTV News.

She said the smoke comes and goes, and sometimes it leaves an "eerie" orange haze.

"We went to bed with the windows open, and it wasn't bad. This morning we woke up, and it was just heavy smoke, so you could smell it in the house," she said.

Ricklefs said the machines will be beneficial for vulnerable residents.

"There would be a lot of elders and people with medical needs that need these air purifiers, so I'm grateful they're putting them in the community," she said.

LLRIB member Arnold Mirasty agrees that many elders rely on the air scrubbers. He said every time he walks into the Jonas Roberts Memorial Community Centre, where the machines are located, it's like a breath of fresh air.

"When you walk in here, you feel the difference. The air quality is a lot better in here than outside," Mirasty said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 20 active wildfires, eight of which were not contained. Top Stories

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