It is common to find community volunteers at the core of successful disaster risk reduction initiatives. Volunteer efforts frequently have a significant direct impact on the protection of lives and enhance the safety of properties in the community. While community volunteers have always played crucial roles in disaster response and recovery, their participation in pre-disaster preparedness is often less frequently recognized as crucial to building disaster-resilient communities. Research has shown that when communities are empowered to manage the adverse effects of local natural hazards, they are more likely to sustainably and effectively address natural disaster risks. Napatak is a small community of approximately 150 permanent residents located in a mature boreal forest on the southwest shore of La Ronge Lake. It is situated approximately 30km South of the Town of La Ronge in Northern Saskatchewan and can only be reached through one access road. Napatak has experienced potentially threatening wildfire situations several times over the years, including one in 1999 during the Mallard Fire and more recently in 2015 when wildfires forced the evacuation of 13,000 residents in the La Ronge area. Wildfire risk became a growing concern for residents of the community who have since showcased great leadership in pursuing various wildfire risk reduction initiatives.
Located deep in the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan, the Community of Napatak has embraced voluntary citizen participation in order to improve the resilience of the community to wildfires. Napatak is officially an unorganized division of Saskatchewan, but it is a strongly connected community that takes fire safety seriously. The community, located on the Western Shore of Lac la Ronge, roughly 10km South of the Towns of Air Ronge and La Ronge, most recently faced a major wildfire threat in 2015, where a wildfire forced the evacuation of 13,000 people from La Ronge area. The community established an Emergency Preparedness Team to help plan and coordinate emergency preparation activities throughout the community. This team was essential in the development of several different volunteer-oriented programs including organizing lines of communication in the event of a fire, devising and assigning tasks that would need to be completed in such an event, and also creating a system for quickly identifying which homes have been evacuated and which have not, among other tasks. This region is regularly threatened with wildfire, with Napatak having experienced near-misses from fires in both 1999 and 2015. With well-considered plans and the help of its citizen, the community of Napatak is better prepared than ever before to handle the dangers that wildfire poses, even in the face of a changing climate.