Thunder Bay

Evacuees from Pikangikum First Nation arriving Wednesday in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Evacuees from Pikangikum First Nation are arriving in Thunder Bay Wednesday, city officials said.

City of Thunder Bay calls for other municipalities to host evacuees as city nears capacity

The emergency operations control group in Thunder Bay, Ont. meets to prepare for incoming evacuees from Pikangikum First Nation. (Logan Turner / CBC)

Evacuees from Pikangikum First Nation are arriving in Thunder Bay Wednesday, according to city officials.

Thunder Bay will act as a host community for the Pikangikum evacuees, who are being forced to leave their homes due to heavy smoke and the forest fires creeping closer to the community.

The city manager said 200 evacuees are expected to land in Thunder Bay Wednesday, with capacity ramping up to receive 100 evacuees on Friday and a further 100 expected to arrive next week.

Norm Gale said the city is reaching its limit by hosting 400 evacuees.

"The current situation is dire. There are people under threat from forest fires and smoke and our capacity to help these people is strained. We are stretched beyond capacity today," Gale said, "and we believe that the situation will get worse before it gets better."

The emergency operations control group, Gale added, is calling on municipalities across the province to open up and accept evacuees.

"Right now there are scant communities that are hosting evacuees. This is placing enormous pressure on the city of Thunder Bay. More cities need to host evacuees."

The city's capacity is further strained by an estimated 600 residents from Pikangikum who have self-evacuated and have arrived in Thunder Bay in the last few days without going through the official provincial emergency operations procedure.

"We know now that there are 600 people in our community that we are not providing direct supports to or any medical services or care in the usual process. We know that more people in addition to that are coming to Thunder Bay, and we are concerned about that," Gale added.

The chief of Superior North Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Wayne Gates, said that the people who have self-evacuated and are not receiving direct support through the official process will place an additional strain on emergency services.

"These people coming out of these communities, they've been traumatized. They've been moved out of their homes to come to Thunder Bay. And for EMS with the high call volume, this just adds to that burden and especially with the people with medical conditions."

The emergency operations control group will continue to meet throughout the week and, as necessary, prepare for evacuees who are forced to leave their homes because of forest fires.