Wildfires Smoke 1,500 First Nations Citizens from Northern Ontario Homes

Wildfires Smoke 1,500 First Nations Citizens from Northern Ontario Homes

Forest fires caused by lightning have forced at least 1,500 First Nations citizens from their homes in northern Ontario., Photo:Mitch Miller/Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

About 1,500 First Nations people were evacuated from northern Ontario reserves on July 18 due to smoke from lightning-caused forest fires, Postmedia news reported.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), 103 active fires were burning in Ontario on Monday, with more erupting daily. Most of northern Ontario was shrouded in smoke that spread as far as the eastern provinces, the MNR said in a release.

“Smoke on the ground continues to create issues for many First Nation communities,” the statement said. “First Nations chiefs and Emergency Management Ontario, along with multiple federal and provincial agencies, continue to discuss the fire situation and potential evacuations.”

About 200 people were evacuated from Kee-way-win First Nation, and more from Fort Hope and North Spirit Lake First Nation. They were taken to Greenstone, about 155 miles northeast of Thunder Bay, MNR said. People were also evacuated from Sandy Lake First Nation and brought to the municipality of Sioux Lookout because of heavy smoke.

The Chronicle-Journal of Thunder Bay reported that more than 250,000 hectares, or nearly 630,000 acres, were engulfed in flames.

The province was going all-out to battle the blazes, bringing in hundreds of firefighters from British Columbia and Saskatchewan, plus aircraft from Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland, Postmedia News reported. They joined about 2,000 firefighters who were already on the ground, Postmedia News said, using 117 aircraft, including 14 heavy water bombers and 80 helicopters.

Deb MacLean, a fire information officer with the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services Program of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, told Postmedia News that the fires reach from about 60 miles east of Thunder Bay to the border with Manitoba in the west, the U.S. border in the south and the Hudson Bay’s shores in the north.

The 540 people evacuated from Deer Lake last week have been able to return home, MacLean said

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