Thunder Bay

Smoke from forest fire near Kenora, Ont., prompts evacuation of Wabaseemoong F.N.

Chief of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation, Chris Skead is calling on his community to help the people of Wabaseemoong First Nation as they evacuate their home due to smoke from a forest fire approximately 20 kilometres from the community.

Vulnerable members in Wabaseemoong have been sent to Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation

Currently the hazard is high across most of the region with pockets of extreme in the Red Lake and Kenora districts. (CBC)

Chief of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation, Chris Skead is calling on his community to help the people of Wabaseemoong  First Nation as they evacuate their home due to smoke from a forest fire approximately 20 kilometres from the community.

"I got the call last night from Chief John Paishk just in regards to the fire that's north of his community," Skead explained, "with all the smoke that is drifting into the community, he was concerned and was looking to see if my community can open up our buildings to accompany their membership."

"I definitely said yes."

According to the Ministry of Natural Resource and Forestry, Kenora Fire 71, located approximately six kilometres east of the Manitoba border and 80 kilometres north of the city of Kenora, started earlier this week but has since grown to approximately 3000 to 6800 hectares since Wednesday, July 18.

Due to the smoke drifting into Wabaseemoong First Nation, the community has declared a state of emergency and have started evacuating vulnerable members including children, elders, those with disabilities, asthma or respiratory issues.

"The first bus came in around 1:30 this morning and an additional one came in between 3 and 4 a.m. this morning," Skead said.

He said there are currently 60 people housed at the community development building in Wauzhushk Onigum, which houses approximately 70 people in total.

A call has been made to the people in the community looking for spare blankets, sheets, air mattress and fans.

Chief Skead said they are currently working in collaboration with the Kenora Chiefs advisory to make sure the evacuees have everything they need.

He said there has been talks that the evacuees will need to stay away from their community for at least two to three days.

"If it has to extend longer, then so be it," Skead said "because we do have the facilities to try and do what we can to help our brothers and sisters of Wabaseemoong."

Help from Mother Nature

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said there has been some help with fires over the past 24 hours via Mother Nature.

Chris Marchand is a fire information officer with the ministry. He said a little rain in the region has been welcome. 

"We are certainly glad to see some precipitation in the region today, though it was fairly patchy over the region," he said. "But the high relative humidity and good precipitation numbers in other parts of the region should help fire ranger crews make some progress on fires today."

Marchand said there are 77 active fires burning in the northwest region today, 12 of which are not under control.

The fire hazard is now low across the western portion of the northwest region, with a moderate hazard around Thunder Bay and a high hazard near the Nipigon District and Terrace Bay.