Saskatchewan Offers to Host 2,000 Ontario Wildfire Evacuees

By Margaret Wollensak
Margaret Wollensak
Margaret Wollensak
July 11, 2019 Updated: July 11, 2019

Saskatchewan has offered to host up to 2,000 evacuees from forest fires that are affecting northern communities in Ontario.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he raised the issue directly with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on July 10, and Moe agreed to help.

“I want to thank Premier Scott Moe and the good people of Saskatchewan for their generosity in helping us to move our people out of harm’s way and ensure they are safely housed during this extremely difficult time,” Ford said in a statement about the wildfire situation.

“Ontario is currently battling many active fires in Northern Ontario affecting over 20 communities. This includes First Nations communities who have declared emergencies due to risk to public health and wellness,” he said.

“Emergency response personnel are working closely with the Ontario Provincial Police, federal partners, community leaders, and other agencies to fight the fires in Northwestern Ontario and ensure people can evacuate safely.”

There are currently 15 active fires in the Northwest region of Ontario as of July 10, according to the Ontario government. Three of the fires are not under control, one is being held (meaning it’s unlikely to spread), three are under control, and the other eight are under observation.

Another six fires are burning in the Northeast region of Ontario.

Several regions have provided crews and equipment to help with evacuation efforts. Over 170 people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, Quebec, British Columbia, Parks Canada, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota are in Ontario to assist, according to the Ontario government. As well, waterbombers from Alberta are being used to combat the wildfires in Ontario.

The First Nation communities of Keewaywin and Pikangikum have each declared an emergency as smoke threatens their communities. Keewaywin First Nations residents have already been evacuated as a precautionary measure to Sioux Lookout and Timmins. Pikangikum First Nations evacuations are currently underway.

A number of Ontario communities are hosting evacuees, including Lac Seul First Nation, Sioux Lookout, Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, Thunder Bay, and Hearst.

The Ontario government is actively looking for additional host communities in case larger evacuations are needed, as a number of communities live within the active fire area. On June 8, the Solicitor General of Ontario, Sylvia Jones, issued a statement saying that she had begun to reach out to mayors across the province asking for communities to help host evacuees.

Ford also said the province has received help from federal, First Nations, U.S. state, and other partners.

According to the Ontario government, there have been 216 fires in 2019 so far. Last year, there were 621 fires, while the 10-year average is 416 fires.

Margaret Wollensak
Margaret Wollensak