UPDATED: Thunder Bay poised to host up to 200 Pikangikum evacuees (2 Photos)
TBNewsWatch.com
 

DRYDEN, ON — For the second time in less than six weeks, Thunder Bay is poised to shelter evacuees from fire-threatened Pikangikum First Nation.

Deputy Fire Chief Greg Hankkio says the city has committed to hosting up to 200 people if necessary, starting Wednesday.

A 40,000-hectare forest fire is burning only six kilometres to the southwest is sending smoke into the community, which is on the opposite side of Pikangikum Lake.

"As a municipality and as a city we're willing to help our neighbour, unfortunately, a community that is being evacuated for the second time in a short period, so it's very challenging for them, no doubt. We're willing to step up and do our part," Hankkio said Monday afternoon after a meeting of the city's emergency planning team.

The deputy fire chief said the city and its community partners will be "ready to go" as of Wednesday, and are looking forward to receiving the guests.

Hankkio clarified later on Monday that Thunder Bay as yet had not been notified whether or when any Pikangikum evacuees would actually be sent to the city.

Pikangikum Chief Amanda Sainnawap on Sunday ordered a complete evacuation of her First Nation.

The process of relocating residents most vulnerable to smoke started earlier. They were taken to Kapuskasing and Hearst.

Residents of Pikangikum, as well as Keewaywin First Nation, may look to the sky for relief this week as firefighters continue to battle large forest fires near their respective communities.

The fire danger rating in the western part of northwestern Ontario is currently extreme, and is high to extreme in the rest of the region.

Environment Canada's current weather forecast calls for showers across much of the northwest on Wednesday.

However, there is also a chance of thunderstorm activity in the Red Lake and Sioux Lookout districts Monday and Tuesday, which would bring the risk of lightning-caused fires.

Keewaywin was evacuated last week because of a 72,000-hectare fire located eight kilometres south of the community. 

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry fire rangers have been placing sprinklers on buildings, and aerial ignition has been used to direct the fire toward natural boundaries such as lakes and rivers.  Helicopters with buckets are also dropping water on the flames.

Sprinklers have also been set up in Pikangikum as a precaution.

MNRF said its incident management team is looking for aerial ignition opportunities to restrict the fire within natural boundaries.

A third large fire in the ministry's Red Lake district, 24,000 hectares in size, is burning near Nungesser Lake.

Sprinklers are in place on structures, and bulldozers are being used to create fire barriers. 

Smoke has posed a problem for firefighters, but the ministry said aerial visibility improved around the fire on Sunday, allowing fire suppression efforts to increase.

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