Thousands flee wildfires

The Saskatchewan government has agreed to host up to 2,000 people who have been forced from their homes by wildfires in northern Ontario.

The Ontario government says more than 20 communities in the province have been affected by the fires, including residents of Pikangikum First Nation.

Earlier Wednesday, the chief of the Indigenous community said evacuation by land and water had been put on hold because of a lack of places to send her people.

Premier Doug Ford said emergency response personnel are working closely with the Ontario Provincial Police and other agencies to fight the fires and ensure people can evacuate safely.

Ford said he asked Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe for help.

"Today, I raised the issue directly with Premier Scott Moe," Ford said in a release.

"Saskatchewan has offered to host up to 2,000 evacuees. I want to thank Premier 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."

Moe said his government will place the Ontario evacuees in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

He said Saskatchewan is happy to lend a hand, noting that Ontario has helped his province deal with wildfires in the past.

"The last time we put out a call a few years ago here in Saskatchewan, Ontario was there to provide wildfire support on the ground," Moe said at the annual premiers' conference in Saskatoon.

"We were very, very appreciative of that, and we are appreciative to return the favour."

The evacuation of the First Nation was expected to resume on Thursday, as crews battled a fire burning about six kilometres to the southwest.

The Ontario government said it was also reaching out to mayors across the province to ask them to host some of Pikangikum's 3,800 residents.

"There is an urgent need for host communities to provide a safe haven for evacuees during this difficult time," said Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Solicitor General.

Mathew Hoppe, commander of Pikangikum's emergency operations centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., said the recent spell of rain has helped his organization win some time.

"It's looking better than it was a couple days ago, when there was very thick smoke in the community and it had hampered air operations," Hoppe said.

"What we're looking at right now is a better situation going forward for the next few days to give us a chance to get ahead of the game."

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