Ontario First Nations community facing 2nd evacuation due to wildfire smoke

WATCH ABOVE (July 5) A raging forest fire in northwestern Ontario continued to burn on Thursday prompting the evacuation of the Keewaywin First Nation community.

PIKANGIKUM, Ont. — For the second time in just over a month, residents of Pikangikum First Nation in northwestern Ontario are being asked to evacuate due to smoke from nearby wildfires.

Officials in the remote community say vulnerable residents, including the elderly, pregnant women and those with respiratory problems are being flown out, along with their immediate families.

Northwestern Ontario forest fire has grown over 100 sq. km since Friday

In a series of Facebook posts on Saturday, Chief Amanda Sainnawap said two planes were available at the local airport to move the most vulnerable.

This is the second time this year that Pikangikum residents have had to evacuate due to nearby wildfires.

WATCH: How to deal with forest fire smoke

More than 2,000 community members were forced from their homes in late May and early June, with many only returning a few weeks ago.

According to the most recent information from Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the largest nearby wildfire as of Saturday afternoon was Red Lake 39 at more than 400 square kilometres.

READ MORE: Forest fire forces evacuation of Keewaywin First Nation in northern Ontario

Meantime, the Department of National Defence said it has responded to a request from the provincial government for help with the evacuation effort.

A department spokeswoman said Sunday that 20 Army Rangers and a Hercules aircraft have been assigned to help with the evacuation.

“The Canadian Rangers will begin immediately working in the Pikangikum First Nation community to assist with ground co-ordination, help to communicate evacuation plans and assist with the management and loading of community members onto aircraft,” Ashley Lemire said in a statement.

READ MORE: Smoke from forest fires causing poor air quality in southeastern Manitoba

“The CC-130J Hercules aircraft is not expected to fly into the community to facilitate evacuation efforts until provincial authorities confirm they are ready to begin moving residents.”

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement Saturday that all levels of government were working to help the community.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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