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Emergency declared in Attawapiskat after fire

File photo - The remains of a Canadian flag can be seen flying over a building in Attawapiskat, Ont., on November 29, 2011.
File photo - The remains of a Canadian flag can be seen flying over a building in Attawapiskat, Ont., on November 29, 2011. Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

ATTAWAPISKAT, Ont. – About 70 residents of the remote Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario will be flown to Kapuskasing beginning on Saturday.

An emergency was declared by the Band Council and chief in the James Bay coast community following a fire in a housing complex.

Area MP Charlie Angus says the fire broke out earlier this week in a set of trailers that had been brought in as temporary housing in 2009 following a sewage collapse that destroyed homes in the community.

Angus says he has not heard of any injuries in the fire.

READ MORE: Audit finds lack of financial due diligence in Attawapiskat

He says two flights are planned to take the affected residents from the community, with the first scheduled to leave the fly-in First Nation around mid-day Saturday.

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Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources is arranging the air transportation out of Attawapiskat.

Angus described the housing complex as a “giant set of construction trailers with little holding cells that families are living in” with one main kitchen and about four toilets.

“This was a real fire trap,” Angus said. “DeBeers brought them (the trailers) in as an emergency when we had no place to put people, but they’ve since become permanent.”

In 2011 Attawapiskat became a flashpoint for relations between the Harper government and First Nations after a housing crisis triggered a state of emergency.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused the band of mismanaging finances and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence staged a six week hunger protest over living conditions on reserves and treaty issues that sparked nationwide demonstrations of support.