State of emergency declared in Pikangikum First Nation

PIKANGIKUM FIRST NATION -- Heavy smoke from forest fires burning near Pikangikum First Nation has prompted the community to declare a state of emergency and prepare for an immediate evacuation.

A blaze, called Red Lake 14, is five kilometres away from the Northwestern Ontario First Nations community and smoke from other fires, including one burning near the Manitoba border, is blowing toward the community and affecting public health and wellness.

In a Thursday morning statement, city officials said Thunder Bay is preparing to receive about 300 evacuees from the Northwestern Ontario First Nations community over the upcoming 48 hours.

Thunder Bay is also expected to serve as a transportation hub. Other evacuees are to be flown to Kapuskasing.

Pikangikum First Nation has a population of about 4,000 and is located 100 kilometres north of Red Lake.

“We are prepared to provide any support we can to our northern neighbours in their time of need, and will be working hard to provide for the comfort of evacuees coming to Thunder Bay,” Thunder Bay mayor Bill Mauro said in a written statement.

A local coordinating team that includes involvement from city officials, the Thunder Bay Police Service, Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, Superior North EMS, Emergency Management Ontario and the Red Cross is continuing to meet to make arrangements.

Thunder Bay had earlier this year hosted evacuees from Kashechewan First Nation when the James Bay area community was evacuated due to a threat of flooding. Those evacuees returned home earlier this week.

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