June 3, 2019 9:20 am
Updated: June 3, 2019 9:49 am

About 300 residents from Pikangikum First Nation flown to Winnipeg to escape fire

A member of the Canadian Armed Forces helps evacuate a child of the Pikangikum First Nation in Northern Ontario, as part of operation LENTUS on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources says a wildfire threatening a remote Indigenous community in the province's northwest has grown several times larger.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-DND- LS Dan Bard 8 wing Imaging Trenton

The evacuation of a northern Ontario First Nation continues as the Ontario government asked Manitoba for help housing evacuees.

Almost 2,000 people have been evacuated from Pikangikum First Nation in Ontario as a nearby wildfire grows closer to the community. The most vulnerable, being affected by smoke, are currently being airlifted.

READ MORE: Number of evacuees from Pikangikum First Nation hits 1,700 as wildfire grows

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“The Manitoba government, at the request of the Ontario government, will support the evacuation of residents from Pikangikum First Nation in Ontario,” said the provincial government in a release Monday morning.

“The community, about 100 kilometres north of Red Lake, is threatened by wildfire and smoke.”

The province’s Emergency Measures Organization is co-operating with Ontario officials, Indigenous Services Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and the City of Winnipeg to find temporary housing for evacuees.

More than 1,500 have been evacuated to Ontario centres in Red Lake, Thunder Bay,  Sioux Lookout and others.

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Jason Small of the Canadian Red Cross tells 680 CJOB about 330 people have been flown to Winnipeg.

“We have them staying now at hotels throughout the city,” he said.

“We were always prepared for a bad wildfire season. We’ve been supporting evacuees every year for the past couple of years, so we’re ready for these things.

“We know it’s dry and our team is ready in case things do require us to help more people come out of communities due to wildfires.”

The fire near the eastern edge of Pikangikum First Nation grew on Thursday to more than 3,000 hectares, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

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Small said that although Ontario is dealing with the majority of the evacuees, the Red Cross can always use more hands, as it’s a volunteer operation. Manitobans who volunteer may not necessarily get trained in time to help with this crisis, but they’ll need help with the next one.

Officials say the fire, which started on Wednesday, grew to just over 36 square kilometres Saturday – about 3,600 hectares – but favourable winds were keeping it away from the community.

There is no rain Sunday, however, periods of rain and showers are expected Monday and Tuesday.

Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement for the Pikangikum area, warning that people in the vicinity “should be on the lookout for adverse weather conditions and take necessary safety precautions.”

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