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Ontario MNR File
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A First Nations community in northern Ontario is threatened with destruction and another dozen are under evacuation orders as heavy smoke hampers efforts to deal with more than 100 forest fires.
Canadian Forces personnel are using Hercules aircraft to move about 400 people out of threatened Keewaywin First Nation— a community about 570 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. The military has also helped evacuate 385 people from Fort Hope and Sandy Lake.
There are 103 active fires burning in Ontario, with 16 new fires Monday. Most of the fires are considered out of control.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy, who represents a group of affected communities that are hundreds of kilometres from the nearest road, said evacuations are moving too slowly.
"It's so important that those people have to be evacuated right away, immediately, before the smoke covers the whole village [and] aircrafts might not be able to get in."
About a dozen communities are moving their most vulnerable residents — sick and elderly, young children and expectant mothers — out because of the smoke. Thousands of people in total are expected to be moved.
Volunteers at an evacuation centre in Thunder Bay worked until the early hours of Tuesday morning helping about 250 residents from Sandy Lake First Nation settle into their temporary home.
Smoke hampering firefighting
The smoke is causing problems for the more than 2,500 firefighters too. Water bombers could not hit their targets because of low visibility and spotter planes were grounded, meaning crews could not map where the fires are going.
Hydro poles that have been destroyed also can't be fixed because of the smoke.
The forest fire hazard remains extremely high in Ontario and the relatively low number of fires in recent summers means the boreal forest is full of dead wood that is adding fuel to the flames — one fire grew from 10,000 to 70,000 hectares in one day.
A First Nations community is threatened with destruction and another dozen are under evacuation orders as heavy smoke hampers efforts to deal with more than 100 forest fires burning in northern Ontario.