THUNDER BAY – Red Lake #49 continues to burn. The fire, and smoke from the fire has impacted the Municipality of Red Lake and Eabametoong First Nation. Thunder Bay has stepped up as a host community during this emergency and is going to serve as a place where the evacuees can stay.
Fifty-four evacuees arrived in the city on Tuesday from Red Lake, in response to a 420-hectare forest fire just outside that town, and the city is preparing to receive up to 200 Stage One or vulnerable population evacuees from Eabametoong First Nation. Stage One evacuees include persons with disabilities, seniors, children, and pregnant women.
Smoke in the community of Eabametoong First Nation is causing problems, and the community declared a state of emergency.
“Thunder Bay is a willing partner in responding to the needs of our neighbours as they face this dire situation,” said Mayor Bill Mauro. “We have, though, advised the Province of our limitations due to the strain on our emergency medical services when it comes to hosting vulnerable populations who may require increased medical care, especially as we continue to respond to COVID-19. We are counting on other communities to also step forward to assist during this emergency.”
This is an evolving situation and the precise number of evacuees to arrive in the city is still developing at this time. Red Lake, with a population of 4,500 residents, is evacuating to several communities in the region including Dryden, Kenora, Pickle Lake, and others in addition to Thunder Bay. Eabametoong First Nation, with a resident population of 1,300, is looking to evacuate vulnerable populations as quickly as possible to Thunder Bay, which can respond to about half of the anticipated needs of the vulnerable population.
“We have been in discussions with Dr. Janet DeMille, Medical Officer of Health, as it relates to the arrival and hosting of additional people within the city during a pandemic,” says Norm Gale, City Manager. “COVID-19 prevention measures are in place in Thunder Bay and evacuees will abide by the health and safety measures in our community to keep the evacuees safe, given that they have no active COVID-19 cases in their communities. This again puts extra pressure on our emergency services during these unprecedented times.”
The local coordinating team, including the City of Thunder Bay, Police, Fire & Rescue, Superior North EMS, Emergency Management Ontario, Canadian Red Cross, and Thunder Bay District Health Unit, will continue to meet to make necessary arrangements.