Pikangikum Evacuation Update – June 2/19 1:00 EDT

Canadian Rangers assisting in Pikangikum evacuation
Canadian Rangers assisting in Pikangikum evacuation - Image Canadian Armed Forces

PIKANGIKUM – The evacuation of community members continue from Pikangikum. Today the community is seeing less smoke from the fire. However that is likely not to be the case by Monday. Environment Canada is predicting that the winds will shift from the north to a more southerly flow of air.

That could push the fire back toward the community. In some positive news, thus far there has been no impact by the forest fire to the Watay Power Transmission line which was just completed at the end  of 2018.

Pikangikum Chief Sainnawap reports, “Evacuations continue throughout today and our most vulnerable members, including elders, children and families, are required to come register at Pikangikum High School immediately for registration and processing so we can schedule aircraft to get our residents to safety.”

“As of today, evacuation destinations will include Manitoba as Ontario communities are filling up.”

Chief Sainnawap emphases, :”Once again, the absence of smoke in the Community can be misleading and weather can change the situation in an instant. It is imperative that we schedule your travel so that the Emergency Operations Centre can coordinate flights properly. We must do this in an organized fashion as the resources we have and our airport can only accommodate so much capacity at one time.”

RCAF Hercules in Sioux Lookout - Image courtesy of North Star Air
RCAF Hercules in Sioux Lookout – Image courtesy of North Star Air

A spokesperson from the Canadian Armed Forces, Captain Jenn Halliwell reports, “Today (June 2) the Canadian Armed Forces continue to provide evacuation support to the Pikangikum First Nation at the request of the province of Ontario. Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules from 8 Wing Trenton, Ont., and 17 Wing Winnipeg, Man. remain the primary airlift assets for the evacuation.”

As of 1130 EDT a CC-130H Hercules from 17 Wing Winnipeg was on the ground in Pikangikum First Nation to provide the first airlift of the day and a second CC-130J from 8 Wing Trenton was onroute from Winnipeg for the second.”

Canadian Rangers continue to provide support to Pikangikum First Nation and the CC-130 Hercules crews as well as host communities identified by the Province of Ontario. 

The exact number of evacuees and where they will be hosted today cannot be confirmed at this time due to the very fluid nature of the situation but will be directed to us by the province of Ontario. Once our operations are finished for the day we can provide final evacuee numbers, the number of aircraft used and how many flights were required to the chosen host communities. 

It is still too early to assess if we will provide support tomorrow but we will continue to provide our aircraft and support as required and directed by the province of Ontario. 

Earlier the RCAF tells NetNewsledger that the RCAF conducted 7 evacuation flights from Pikangikum First Nation on Saturday, moving a daily total of approximately 640 evacuees to the host communities of Sioux Lookout and Kapuskasing, as requested by the Province of Ontario. This was achieved using five Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules including four CC-130J Hercules from 8 Wing Trenton, Ont. and one CC-130H Hercules from 17 Wing Winnipeg, Man.

The RCAF continue, “Airlift operations continued into the night with flights occurring after dark and our CC-130J Hercules crews operating with Night Vision Goggles in order to complete their missions. This is a specialized qualification that allows Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130J crews the ability to operate on austere airfields at night in order to deliver air power and support wherever and whenever it is required.”

Sioux Lookout is the Hub community for the aircraft, here North Star Air, Perimeter Air and Wasaya Airways aircraft are lined up in Sioux Lookout - Image North Star Air
Sioux Lookout is the Hub community for the aircraft, here North Star Air, Perimeter Air and Wasaya Airways aircraft are lined up in Sioux Lookout – Image North Star Air

Canadian Rangers also continued to provide support to Pikangikum First Nation, the CC-130 Hercules crews and host communities throughout the day.

The Royal Canadian Air Force in collaboration with Transport Canada has also provided an aerospace control team (consisting of two RCAF Captains) to the Pikangikum First Nation airfield in order to better coordinate local air traffic due to an increasing number of aircraft flying in and out of the community for the evacuation and the fighting of the forest fires.

The coordination between the Canadian Armed Forces and the Province of Ontario has been excellent throughout the evacuation efforts. Joint Task Force (Central) based in Toronto Ont., is responsible for coordinating with the province on the CAF’s behalf and has been instrumental in ensuring clear communication between the two agencies. It is their hard work and dedication that has enabled the CAF to evacuate so many members of Pikangikum First Nation in coordination with and at the request of the province of Ontario.‎

At this time, the air force have evacuated a total of approximately 1,500 members of the community via Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules aircraft at the request of the Province of Ontario.