WHITEWATER LAKE FIRST NATION – The Chief of Whitewater Lake First Nation is demanding immediate help to battle forest fires burning near that community. Chief Arlene Slipperjack says the community is in a terrible state of threat. “The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is not listening to us as we continue to plead for help in battling the forest fires burning close to our community. The fires are posing a serious and immediate threat to us and we do not have the resources available ourselves to battle them,” said Chief Slipperjack.
The Chief states, “Four forest fires are burning less than half a kilometre away from Whitewater Lake First Nation, causing heavy smoke to filtrate into the air in the community. On Sunday, the MNR claimed that they had no crew, no equipment, no planes and no helicopters available to evacuate the community nor’ battle the forest fires. In addition, the Fire Centre in Thunder Bay, has refused to send water bombers to combat the fire claiming that resources are spread thin and the fires are not posing an immediate threat”.
Because of possible health and safety risks, Chief Slipperjack had no choice but to call a private airline to airlift community members to Thunder Bay.
The community also purchased water pumps, hoses, and sprinklers in an attempt to keep the forest fires currently burning from growing and moving even closer to the community. Three community members have stayed behind to battle the blaze but are tired from working long hours and are unable to withstand the heat and heavy smoke.
“The MNR is saying that they will let the fires burn out naturally, but we cannot wait for that. The forest fires are destroying the wildlife habitat in our traditional territory and soon property will be damaged if immediate action is not taken,” said Chief Slipperjack. “We are calling out for help, before it’s too late.”
The MNR is reporting, “There were three new fires in the Northwest Region by the evening of August 3, with one each in the districts of Dryden, Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay. Despite the recent rainfall there is little relief in sight as fire management personnel continue to fight more than 100 active forest fires across the entire Northwest Region. Smoky conditions are being reported in the region as a result of the forest fires. To date since April 1 a total of 373 fires have been declared out in the region! This number shows the massive and successful efforts that are ongoing to manage active fires and new fires occurring daily in the region”.
Whitewater Lake First Nation is a Treaty No. 9 community located in Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory in Northwestern Ontario.