The remote First Nations community of Deer Lake in northern Ontario is in dire straits, threatened by out-of-control wildfires that have forced more than 500 people to evacuate.
A total of 530 people were evacuated as of July 7 because of smoke from the fires, the provincial government said, with several taken by air ambulance. The fires were burning just over two miles from the remote community.
“I’ve been very busy, tired and didn’t sleep much last night,” Chief Roy Meekis told The Chronicle Journal, summing up the long night. He and the Band Council requested the evacuation and were coordinating with provincial and federal authorities to ensure residents’ safety and get medical treatment to the most vulnerable residents.
This was the second major relief operation in the region in as many months, The Chronicle Journal reported. More than 400 residents of Mishkeegogamang First Nation were evacuated for a week in June because of smoke from a fire at Sioux Lookout 35.
Sandy Lake, Cat Lake, North Spirit Lake and Keewaywin First Nations communities were also threatened by the fires, and provincial and federal officials were monitoring in case further evacuations are needed, the Ontario government said. The evacuations were a joint effort between the Canadian Forces, Health Canada and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) and the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) also worked closely in the evacuation operation.
Most of the evacuees have been brought to Greenstone, about 380 miles from their community as MNR personnel continue fighting a multitude of fires in northwest Ontario, the provincial government said.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak Community Initiatives (KOCI), a charitable foundation serving Deer Lake and several other communities, is seeking donations of food, clothing and supplies for the evacuees. Donors can go through CanadaHelps.org as well as the KOCI site.
The Chronicle Journal said that 71 forest fires are burning in Ontario’s Northwest Region, from Marathon to the Manitoba border. Three were being held back, 28 were classified as not under control, six were under control and 34 were being monitored, the newspaper said on July 8.