Thunder Bay ready to host up to 200 evacuees as forest fires threaten northern communities
Pikangikum First Nation currently being evacuated due to smoke from nearby forest fires
Thunder Bay is ready to host up to 200 evacuees from northern communities threatened by forest fires, the city's deputy fire chief said.
Greg Hankkio said the city has told the province it will be ready for evacuees as early as Wednesday.
"We're more than willing as a community to help out, and do our part as best we can as we have historically done," Hankkio said. "And I anticipate we'll continue to do so, and when and if we get guests in our community, we'll take care of them to the best of our ability."
Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said she began contacting Ontario municipalities on Sunday, asking them to host evacuees from northern communities if needed.
There are several communities threatened by forest fires in the northwest. Keewaywin First Nation has been evacuated due to heavy smoke blowing into the community.
An evacuation of Pikangikum First Nation is underway, also due to heavy smoke.
The province said it's unable to provide an exact number of evacuees, or a timeline for the evacuation, due to the fluid nature of the situation in Pikangikum.
Canadian Armed Forces assisting
Hankkio said Thunder Bay is ready to accept evacuees from Pikangikum, if needed. However, the city will remain ready if forest fires force evacuations from another other communities, should that request come in, as well.
"The province has a plan in place with respect to the order in which they're presently filling host communities," Hankkio said. "That being said, we do know there are probably going to be a number of residents from Pikangikum that self-evacuate, and end up driving to Thunder Bay."
Official evacuations from Pikangikum will be evacuated by Canadian Armed Forces CC-130J Hercules aircraft.
The Department of National Defence said in a statement Canadian Rangers are assisting with ground coordination in the community and loading of aircraft.