Town preps should evacuees arrive


Fort Frances is readying itself should any of the thousands of evacuees fleeing forest fires to the north need to find haven here.
The town has been on the list as a possible host communities for the four to five weeks since the crisis started, said Frank Sheppard, Fort Frances Fire Chief and Community Emergency Management coordinator.
“At this point we’re just in a ‘wait and see’ mode,” said Sheppard.
Decisions about where people are evacuated to comes from Emergency Management Ontario, he explained about the process, with provincial emergency operations centre determining where the most viable option is for people to be transported.
Evacuations from these northern communities have “spooled up” this week, he said, but this has come when Fort Frances has seen a reduced capacity in the number of people it could take in due to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Typically, primary evacuation locations here would be motel and hotel facilities which could handle around 120 people, he noted, with the Memorial Sports Complex used as a secondary evacuation site with 100 beds being set up there.
The town’s current capacity right now would be around 80 people, he said.
“We have very limited [space] and as a result [Emergency Management Ontario has] taken [evacuees] to communities where they can keep community and family groups together rather than
splitting them up,” said Sheppard.
“If there’s a bright spot in all of it, it looks like the situation is stabilizing in the north a little bit,” he added. “The humidity’s dropped. They seem to be getting a little more cooling in areas.”
Sheppard said the town would be in a position to have the evacuation centre open by Tuesday if there is still a need.
“It’s pretty tragic for these people to have to be moved from their homes and the risk they run of losing all their possessions,” he stressed, saying the town has been working within their emergency management plan to ready themselves should evacuees arrive here, and have been in contact with Couchiching First Nation to ensure any evacuees—many of whom are from remote Northern First Nation Reserves—will be made as comfortable as possible while here.
In other news, City of Kenora has announced they are willing to take in evacuees, with a preliminary meeting held yesterday to identify the groundwork to be prepared prior to the evacuees arriving.