Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford and Ontario Premier Doug Ford traveled to Thunder Bay on Wednesday to visit an evacuation site and a fire management centre.

Rickford and Ford had the opportunity to sit down and chat with affected evacuees and Ford had the chance to assess the forest fire situation in Northwestern Ontario.

“We haven’t had an extraordinary fire event like this for a very long time and it's an all-hands on deck approach. Premier wanted to check-in at the headquarters, he wanted to visit an evacuation site and I think things went very well. We appreciate the hard work that everyone’s doing,” said Rickford

Last week Sol Mamakwa MPP for Kiiwetinoong sent a letter calling on the provincial government to issue a State of Emergency for the province due to the forest fire situation in NWO.

In an exclusive interview with KenoraOnline MPP Rickford provided clarity of the request for the State of Emergency

“We’re not there yet, there was some confusion on this and I can appreciate that some Indigenous leaders thought that was the right thing to do. We still have considerable capacity to take evacuees. The State of Emergency just gives the provincial government sweeping powers to send evacuees where ever they want whenever they want,”

Rickford went onto say that they have worked with municipalities across NWO and into Toronto on the basis of what each location has available for evacuees.

On Monday, Ministries of the Solicitor General and Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry held a technical media briefing outlining the status of the forest fire situation in Ontario. A powerpoint presentation showed that this forest fire season is the worst it's been in 10 years. In Ontario this year there have been a total of over 902 fires to date and a total of 520,134 hectares that have been affected by forest fires which is double the 10-year-average. 

The presentation also detailed the measures that have to take place before a State of Emergency can be issued. 

In order for the province to declare a State of Emergency certain criteria has to be met:

  • In the opinion of the LGIC (Lieutenant Governor in Council) or Premier, an emergency exists that requires immediate action to prevent, reduce or mitigate danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property.

In addition one of the following circumstances exists:

  • Resources normally available to the government, including existing legislation, cannot be relied upon without risk of serious delay;
  • Resources may not be effective to address the emergency;

  • It is not possible without the risk of serious delay, to determine if resources can be relied upon.

On July 14, 2021, an Emergency Area Order was implemented for NWO to allow the ministry to take special measures to ensure the safety of people and the protection of critical property.

“The emergency orders that we already have in place are the ones that are most important to provide the province with an ability to move firefighting assets and people into position and to move evacuees out. When you think of those far-reaching powers to shut highways down and divert airway traffic out of various communities. We think that we’ve approached this the right way,” added Rickford

The forest fire hazard is moderate to high across most of the region with a few low areas following limited, scattered rain. Sioux Lookout and Dryden districts have pockets of extreme hazard.

The Kenora area has only seen 63 millimetres of rain which is well below the monthly average of 103.4 millimetres.