Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay will help ease transition for Kashechewan evacuees, deputy fire chief says

A deputy fire chief in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the city will do more than just help provide shelter for the roughly 200 evacuees from Kashechewan First Nation staying in the city.

About 200 people from the often flood-threatened James Bay community in Thunder Bay

Evacuees from Kashechewan First Nation disembark from an Air Creebec Dash-8 in this file photo. (Martine Laberge/Radio-Canada)

A deputy fire chief in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the city will do more than just help provide shelter for the roughly 200 evacuees from Kashechewan First Nation staying in the city.

Residents have to temporarily leave the James Bay Cree First Nation every spring to escape the Albany River's floodwaters. This year's evacuation, originally scheduled for April 21, was moved up with five flights arriving in Thunder Bay over the Easter weekend.

Thunder Bay is one of several host cities for people fleeing the First Nation, along with Timmins, Kapuskasing and Cornwall.

"We have it down pretty ... fluidly right now, what to expect when the ask has been made," said deputy fire chief David Paxton. "The process is to make it as smooth as possible for the communities."

"It was pretty seamless on Saturday and Sunday."

The people from Kashechewan are staying in a local hotel, Paxton said, adding that local officials are trying to help make the stay as comfortable as possible by organizing outings and tours of the city and surrounding area, "so that they're not just stuck in a hotel room and they do get to get out, do something to relieve some of the tension and also to pass some of the time."

Paxton said, in past years, the city has organized trips to places like the waterfront, Mount McKay, Kakabeka Falls and through some areas of interest in Thunder Bay, along with specialized outings for children, like sports days and trips to local parks.

Kashechewan also arranged to bring teachers down so students staying in Thunder Bay and other communities can continue to be schooled while they wait for the state of emergency to pass, Paxton said.

With files from Erik White

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