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Forest Fire Evacuations: Thunder Bay Response Expands to ‘Transportation Hub’

July 19, 2011 – In addition to about 280 residents of Sandy Lake First Nation who will call Thunder Bay home for the next week, our city has been identified as a ‘transportation hub’ to receive up to 1,000 additional residents to be evacuated from Northern communities today as forest fires worsen across Northwestern Ontario.

A ‘transportation hub’ means that evacuees will come to Thunder Bay, be registered with the Red Cross and transported to other Ontario communities. The Province may look to move up to 5,000 people in the next few days.

“This is an extremely challenging and unprecedented circumstance in Thunder Bay’s history as a reception centre for forest fire events,” said Mayor Keith Hobbs, who led a 3 am meeting of the Emergency Operations Control Group today. “We are planning as much as is possible and responding to emerging needs to support our neighbours to the north.

“We are also calling on the Province and other municipalities in Ontario to open up their communities to accept evacuees in light of this urgent need where people’s lives and health are threatened.”

On Monday, 208 residents of Sandy Lake arrived in Thunder Bay. Another 70 are expected around mid-day today. The Victoria Inn has indicated it has enough hotel rooms to accommodate these evacuees until they are able to safely return home. The about 280 Sandy Lake residents who are remaining in Thunder Bay are under the Incident Command of Director Brian Berringer of Fire Rescue.

The transportation ‘hub’ is under the Incident Command of Deputy Fire Chief Greg Hankkio. Further details are being worked out on those evacuations.

The local Emergency Operations Control Group coordinating team includes the City of Thunder Bay, Police, Fire & Rescue, Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Superior North EMS and Canadian Red Cross.

Sandy Lake is 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

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Contact:  Mayor Keith Hobbs, 625-3600
               Dennis Brescacin, Community Emergency Management Coordinator, Fire Rescue,