Forest fire smoke causing evacuations in First Nations
Published Monday, July 8, 2019 9:14AM EDT Last Updated Monday, July 8, 2019 2:19PM EDT
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says several active forest fires burning in northern Ontario are affecting Keewaywin and Pikangikum First Nations.
Both communities have declared states of emergency due to smoke and evacuations are now underway.
All residents of Keewaywin have been evacuated to Sioux Lookout and Timmins as a precaution, while vulnerable people in Pikangikum are being evacuated to Kapuskasing and Hearst.
She says several more communities could be impacted in the coming days and weeks, so there is an urgent need for host communities to take in evacuees.
“In partnership with our provincial, First Nations, federal and NGO partners, my ministry is coordinating a contingency plan should we need to proceed with a large-scale evacuation. Yesterday, I began reaching out to mayors across the province to ask that their communities host evacuees. We are working with municipalities to find sufficient space to safely house those in need over the coming days and weeks.” said Jones in a statement.
July 8, 2019
The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, released the following statement regarding the current fire situation in Northern Ontario:
"This year is proving to be a challenging one for forest fires in Northern Ontario. There are currently numerous active fires in the northern part of our province and several of them are threatening First Nation communities.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is leading firefighting efforts and Ontario's emergency management personnel are working closely with the Ontario Provincial Police, community leaders, provincial ministries, the federal government and other agencies to ensure the health and safety of those affected.
The First Nation communities of Keewaywin and Pikangikum have each declared an emergency due to the threat of smoke in their communities. All residents of the Keewaywin First Nation have been evacuated as a precautionary measure and are being hosted in Sioux Lookout and Timmins. The evacuation of vulnerable individuals in Pikangikum First Nation to Kapuskasing and Hearst is currently underway.
Several other communities in Northern Ontario could be impacted over the coming days and weeks. There is an urgent need for host communities to provide a safe haven for evacuees during this difficult time. In partnership with our provincial, First Nations, federal and NGO partners, my ministry is coordinating a contingency plan should we need to proceed with a large-scale evacuation.
Yesterday, I began reaching out to mayors across the province to ask that their communities host evacuees. We are working with municipalities to find sufficient space to safely house those in need over the coming days and weeks.
I want to thank all of those engaged in responding to the fires and in ensuring the health and wellbeing of those in affected communities. In addition to those bravely fighting the fires directly on the frontlines, we also recognize those municipal partners who are stepping forward to help in this hour of need.
Ensuring the safety of those affected by the fires is our government's top priority.
For more information about the forest fire situation and its impacts, visit www.Ontario.ca\alert."