By Peter Moon
MUSKRAT DAM FN – The Canadian Armed Forces have authorized Canadian Rangers to continue providing military support for Muskrat Dam First Nation while the remote community waits for a back-up diesel generator to be put on line.
The remote Oji-Cree community, with a population of about 300 and located about 570 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, has been without two of its generators after two of them failed on February 6 in the middle of a period of extremely low temperatures.
The tiny community declared an emergency and requested military assistance. The Canadian Armed Forces authorized the use of Canadian Rangers to assist the First Nation. The Rangers are part-time army reservists. There are Rangers in 29 First Nations across the Far North of Ontario, most of them in remote and isolated communities.
On Monday the remaining functioning generator broke down for three hours in the middle of the night. The temperature at the time was -24C with a windchill of -30C. Only 25 of the 110 homes in the community are heated by wood. The remainder rely on electricity for heat.
“The Rangers were critical,” said Stan Beardy, a spokesman for the First Nation. “They helped get elders without heat to heated houses in the pitch dark. We need help and the Rangers have been helping out in the community. If we have to evacuate it will take six to 10 hours for the first evacuation planes to arrive here.”
A small team of five Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, have been placed on full-time duty to assist the community. They are cutting and distributing wood for homes that depend on it for heating. They are also liaising with the community’s emergency command post and making plans to evacuate the community if it becomes necessary.
‘When the power went out we met and talked about what we would do if the power did not come back on,” said Sergeant Emily Beardy, the local Ranger patrol’s commander. “We had the evacuation lists ready if we had to evacuate. We had to check on the elders because some of them didn’t have wood stoves and without electricity they had no heat. We got them to family or friends who had wood heat.”
Work crews are in the community maintaining the sole generator and working on getting two new generators installed and tested. A spell of bitterly cold weather has hampered the work.
“The Rangers have done an outstanding job in Muskrat Dam,” said Major Charles Ohkle, a Canadian Army officer. “In the middle of the night they went door to door conducting wellness checks and helping the elderly and disabled.
“With the extension they will now remain on duty until February 20.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.}