About 2000 evacuees from Pikangikum First Nation have received the green light to return home, as the forest fire that threatened their community has been listed as under control as of Friday night.
“It has been a long journey,” Chief Amanda Sainnawap stated in a written release on Monday. “We are all ready to be home.”
Over the past two weeks, evacuees have been staying at hotels across communities in northern Ontario and Winnipeg with little knowledge of when they would be able to return home.
According to Monday’s statement, a series of planes were scheduled to transport the evacuees back to the fly-in community over the span of several days.
The first plane departed from Winnipeg on June 10 and the final evacuee boarded the plane to return home from Kapuskasing on Monday.
“It has been a difficult time for all of us,” Sinnawap said. “We truly appreciate all of the support we have received from all of the host communities and all of the organizations that stepped up to help us in our time of need.”
She stated that while she is happy to see everyone returning home, community members are continuing to mourn the loss of 16-year-old Kelsey Strang.
Strang died on June 12 after being struck by a vehicle on Highway 11 in Cochrane, Ont.
Sinnawap said funeral arrangements have yet to be made, pending the return of the entire community.
“We will rebuild from this,” she said. “We will be stronger.”