Another First Nation being evacuated to Thunder Bay due to wildfire threat

By Denise Paglinawan

Members of a second First Nation in northern Ontario were being evacuated to Thunder Bay on Monday due to the threat posed by wildfires in the region.

The City of Thunder Bay said it would host 101 evacuees from Deer Lake First Nation. Over the weekend, the city began taking in 300 residents from Poplar Hill First Nation due to the threat to that community from another wildfire.

“Local emergency services confirmed the necessary resources were available to support the additional evacuees,” the city said in a statement Monday.

A wildfire dubbed Red Lake 51 is burning 15 kilometres away from Deer Lake and growing in size due to weather conditions, the city said.

The 101 people from the First Nation who were heading to Thunder Bay are considered members of the community’s vulnerable population, it said. A remaining group of about 350 people from Deer Lake will be evacuated to other communities in the province, the city said.

Evacuees from Poplar Hill First Nation began arriving in the city on Sunday, Thunder Bay said, noting that a forest fire burning about 10 kilometres west of that community posed an immediate threat to residents’ safety.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General said the province is working to support the full evacuation of Poplar Hill and the precautionary evacuation of Deer Lake.

“Our top priority is the health and wellbeing of individuals currently being impacted by wildfires in the northern part of our province,” ministry spokesman Brent Ross said in a statement.

Ross said no other First Nation communities have requested evacuations at this time.

He added that the province continued to fight multiple wildfires with ground crews and water bombers, while keeping local officials updated on the situation.

The federal government said Sunday that Poplar Hill had requested assistance and the Canadian Armed Forces would evacuate residents by air.