THUNDER BAY -- As many as 250 Kashechewan First Nation evacuees could arrive in the city by the end of next week as the James Bay-area community prepares for potential flooding.
City officials on Wednesday confirmed that Thunder Bay will be among the communties that have been asked by the province to host evacuees.
"Thunder Bay has a long history of stepping forward as a host community, supported by full funding from the federal government," Mayor Bill Mauro said in a statement. "Our community is pulling together to assist our neighbours from the north."
The city's response is a coordinated effort involving the Canadian Red Cross, Department of Indigenous Services Canada, the North West Local Health Integration Network and the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Ontario. The city's emergency operations control group met earlier Wednesday to confirm support and start preparations.
The evacuation could begin as early as April 15, with the first flights going to Kapuskasing, followed by Cornwall. Thunder Bay is tentatively expected to receive 250 evacuees, as early as April 18.
Thunder Bay Fire Rescue deputy chief Greg Hankkio said it's currently being considered a precautionary evacuation.
"My understanding right now is that the ice conditions are stable and the water conditons are stable, although they are anticipating a fairly significant flood season this year," Hankkio said. "Because it is precautionary, they want to get the people out sooner than later."
The city said those plans are subject to change depending on weather and flight availability.
Hankkio said the city has requested to host primary evacuees, who are considered vulnerable populations including children and the elderly.
Kashechewan, which is located on the banks of the Albany River, is threatened by flooding nearly every year during the spring ice break-up. A framework agreement, signed in 2017 by Kashechewan, along with the provincial and federal governments and Nishnawbe Aski Nation, involves looking into the possibility of relocating the community.
Last year Thunder Bay hosted more than 350 evacuees.