Thunder Bay Stops Accepting Fire Evacuees

Thunder Bay Stops Accepting Fire Evacuees Photo: WDIO-TV

Created: July 11, 2019 05:56 PM

As a Northwestern Ontario community evacuates due to a wildfire for the second time this year, the region's largest city says it doesn't have any more room for evacuees.

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The City of Thunder Bay announced Thursday that it is declining any additional wildfire evacuees from Pikangikum, citing safety and security concerns.  The city has already accepted more than 200 evacuees and says another 600 people also came to the city on their own.

"As a result of the influx of forest fire evacuees from Pikangikum, the City is seeing greater demand in support and services, including constraints on emergency services," said Norm Gale, Emergency Operations Control Group Chair and City Manager, in a news release. "Safety is our top priority, and in order to provide the best support we can to those already here, we made the decision to decline any additional evacuees at this time."

Thunder Bay's announcement comes days after Ontario's Solicitor General said there was an urgent need for additional communities to volunteer to host wildfire evacuees.  Pikangikum residents are being evacuated to five other Ontario communities and three in Saskatchewan.

Pikangikum, a First Nations community of about 4,500 people, is about 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) northwest of Thunder Bay by air and is not connected to the road system.

The Ontario Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources says the fire west of Pikangikum has burned 50,755 hectares (125,000 acres).  Another fire on the eastern edge of the town burned 3,835 hectares (9,476 acres) just over a month ago.

Another fire has lead residents of Keewaywin First Nation to be evacuated as a precautionary measure.

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