By Nicole Ireland, CBC News
Crews from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry [MNRF] don't have many forest fires to fight in northwestern Ontario right now — but they've still been busy.
High water levels in the Kenora and Fort Frances districts continue to threaten communities, and a number of First Nations have declared states of emergency. The MNRF has distributed about 91,000 sandbags to help residents protect themselves against flooding.
About 10,000 of those have gone to Wabaseemoong First Nation, approximately 80 km northwest of Kenora. Chief John Paishk told CBC News he is thankful for the help.
He said a ministry crew worked with 30 to 40 community members over the weekend to place the sandbags around pumphouses and manholes. Those structures are critical, Paishk said, because if floodwaters reached them, the First Nation's entire water system would be at risk.
"What we were told is that if ... it's contaminated [it] might be the whole summer long before we would have water," he said.
Paishk said volunteers are watching the sandbagged areas 24 hours a day, and have called him in the middle of the night when waters have approached worrisome levels.
"We can't take any chances," he said.
Paishk is hoping the flood danger will end on Wednesday, when Environment Canada is forecasting the rainy weather will end.
First Nations on flood watch:
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says it has provided sandbags to First Nations under states of emergency in the Fort Frances and Kenora districts. For example:
Couchiching First Nation [21,000 sandbags]
Mitaanjigamiing First Nation [21,000 sandbags]
Naicatchewenin First Nation [5,000 sandbags]
Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation [5,000 sandbags]
Rat Portage First Nation [500 sandbags]
Seine River First Nation [18,500 sandbags]
Wabaseemoong First Nation [10,000 sandbags]