Ontario chief wants state of emergency declared
More than 30 new blazes are expected over the coming days.
OTTAWA - A northwestern Ontario chief is asking the provincial and federal governments to commit all available emergency resources to help First Nations threatened by forest fires.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy wants Ottawa to ensure that enough aircraft are available to evacuate the communities at a moment's notice.
More than 115 forest fires are raging across northwestern Ontario, and Beardy says thousands of residents are in immediate danger from the growing flames and dense smoke.
As many as 200 residents of Keewaywin First Nation were evacuated to Winnipeg on Monday evening after 197 residents were evacuated Sunday.
Eighty residents of Cat Lake First Nation have been evacuated to Dryden and 170 residents of North Spirit Lake First Nation have been evacuated to Greenstone.
About 750 residents of Sandy Lake First Nation have been evacuated to Thunder Bay, and 230 residents of Kingfisher Lake First Nation are on standby for evacuation. "I am also asking the Province of Ontario to declare a state of emergency so that all necessary resources can be directed to protect the health and safety of the residents of these communities," Beardy said Tuesday.
"Many remote First Nations under imminent threat from these fires rely completely on air transportation," he said. "There is a very real danger that heavy smoke from these fires could prevent aircraft from landing, making it impossible to get people out safely if an evacuation is ordered." About 75 evacuees from Cat Lake First Nation, mostly young families, are settled into Dryden High School.
Officials said another 75 Cat Lake residents could arrive in Dryden on Wednesday.
Some 200 evacuees from New Osnaburgh First Nation and Sandy Lake First Nation are being housed at a Sioux Lookout hotel.
Meanwhile, heavy smoke blanketed Red Lake and Sioux Lookout and hovered around Dryden on Tuesday.
Dr. James Arthurs, medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit, said his offices have been inundated with calls from residents who are suffering from the smoke.
Residents were advised to stay inside and keep their windows and doors closed, Arthurs said.
Ministry of Natural Resources spokeswoman Debbie MacLean said crews are battling more than 90 wildfires.
More than 2,000 firefighters are involved in the battle, with more help expected in the coming days from B.C. and Newfoundland, MacLean said.
The ministry also has air support from Alberta and Quebec.
Firefighters are supported by 117 aircraft, 14 water bombers, 80 helicopters and 16 transport aircraft.
With files from CKDR