Residents returning to Pikangikum First Nation with forest fire held at bay
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces help evacuate people of Pikangikum First Nation in Northern Ontario, as part of operation LENTUS on Thursday, May 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-DND- LS Dan Bard 8 wing Imaging Trenton
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, June 11, 2019 4:54PM EDT
Residents evacuated from a northwestern Ontario First Nation have begun to return home as a nearby wildfire is held at bay.
The chief of Pikangikum First Nation said the community is remaining alert but residents who had to leave are heading home.
“There is no longer an imminent threat but we stress the importance of remaining cautious,” Chief Amanda Sainnawap wrote on Facebook. “We are still waiting for the status of the fire to be under control.”
Those who left on their own have begun to return and others who were taken to Manitoba have begun flying home, she said.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations across northern Ontario, said residents will also be returning shortly from communities including Timmins, Pelican Falls, Smooth Rock Falls, Thunder Bay, Hearst, Cochrane, and Kapuskasing.
“Return flights are expected to take two weeks and those considered vulnerable will be the last to arrive back into the community,” it said in a statement.
It also said telecommunications that were knocked out in the area have been restored by Bell Canada.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General said it is working with the federal government and the First Nation to help return residents.
Red Lake 14, as the fire is officially known, started in late May and triggered the evacuation of the First Nation that is home to about 2,000 people, located about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont.
The fire stands at 38 square kilometres in size and is considered “held,” said Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry spokeswoman Isabelle Chenard.
“It is not expected to get any larger,” she said.
Chenard said 80 firefighters and 25 support staff are currently battling the fire.
“They're working to extinguish hot spots within the first 500 feet inside the perimeter,” she said.
She said dryer weather is expected to move into the area in the next few days. But rain has helped several forest fires in the area over the past week.
“All the fires in the northwest have been relatively quiet,” Chenard said.