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CA fires force thousands to flee

Residents of at least 19 communities being flown to safety

THUNDER BAY, Ontario (UPI) | July 22, 2011


"Today's goal is to place as many people as possible to locations across Ontario in appropriate housing"

—an Davidson


Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty left a premiers' conference early to go to northwestern Ontario where forest fires have forced thousands of people to evacuate.

Residents in 19 communities were on high alert and preparing to board military and commercial airplanes bound for processing centers in Toronto or Thunder Bay, where they will receive an initial medical assessment before being moved to hotels and reception centers in 20 other communities, Postmedia News reported.

"Today's goal is to place as many people as possible to locations across Ontario in appropriate housing," Ian Davidson, Ontario's deputy minister of community safety, said during a teleconference Thursday. "While the problem has been smoke, we're also facing potential direct threat to communities at risk of smoke or fire in northwestern Ontario."

So far, 2,730 people have been evacuated from several Indian communities in Ontario, Postmedia News reported. Evacuations were ordered in northeastern Manitoba where 200 people were moved from St. Theresa Point Indian reservation, about 400 miles northwest of Winnipeg.

"The premier has decided with so many Ontarians pulling together to help fight fires and ensure a safe evacuation, he needed to leave the premier's conference early to ensure that every possible assistance is being provided to the communities and families affected," a government spokeswoman said Thursday.

Some Indian leaders have urged the government to declare a state of emergency so more resources can be used to evacuate residents before conditions worsen, but Davidson said a state-of-emergency declaration "would not change the actions of this government and the federal government."

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