Pikangikum Fire: Worried Community Awaits Evacuations as Fire Nears [PHOTOS]

Pikangikum Fire

Dean Hill Pikangikum Fire

A state of emergency was declared in the Pikangikum First Nation because of fire and heavy smoke, TB News Watch shared. The Red Lake 14 fire is just about two kilometers away from the Northwestern Ontario First Nation community. Another fire burning near the Manitoba border is also causing issues with public health in the region. From 300 to 1,000 or more people may need to be evacuated, depending on what the fire does. Read on to learn more details about the fire.

Evacuations Have Been Frustratingly Slow as the Fire Approaches, Residents Say

As of Thursday afternoon, the fire had reached 400 hectares in size said Jolanta Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. This is a look at the fire on Wednesday night. It’s grown since this video was taken:

Pikangikum is a fly-in community located 500 kilometers northwest of Thunder Bay. Numerous cities in northern Ontario will be hosting evacuees, CBC reported.

Here’s a map of the fire’s location:

Evacuations are slowly getting underway in the area as the fire grows.

Currently, about 1,600 people need evacuating and the fire is nearing houses on the river. Canadian forces are deploying Hercules aircraft to help with the evacuation. As of 3:45 p.m., the first aircraft had finally arrived to help with the evacuation.

But as of 7:10 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, only one plane had left so far. However, a second Hercules and two Chinook helicopters were on the way.

Slow evacuations are concerning. Some who were supposed to leave at 6 a.m. did not leave until around 6 p.m., nearly 12 hours later.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fodder told the National Post that the slowness of the evacuation was “beyond frustration,” as not even one military plane had arrived by Thursday afternoon. Out of a population of 2,300, at least 1,600 residents were deemed to be in vulnerable situations because of the fire.

Smoke issues were becoming difficult for children and even adults.

The good news is that so far, at least three plans have taken children and older adults to safety, according to local resident Jenn Wallace, a teacher.

More planes are on the way.

Photos & Videos Capture the Sheer Size of the Fire & Concern of Locals

Angie Morris, a resident, wrote on Facebook: “The government and MNR didn’t move fast enough on the evacuation in Pikangikum. Many boated to to their vehicles parked at Taxi Bay to flee on their own. I know that IFNA is doing their best to help the leadership and the people of Pikangikum from out here. I got to be a part of the meeting and will be helping in whichever capacity I can. If I could summon a rain dance then I would dance all night if I could. Please include Pikangikum in your prayers.”

Here are more photos of evacuees, shared by Dean Angellips on Facebook:

People are sharing prayers and hopeful thoughts for the people of Pikangikum.

Evacuations will continue on Friday.