Nearly 1,600 people in Pikangikum First Nation started leaving the community late Thursday afternoon as a forest fire continues to burn out of control.

The Canadian Air Force (CAF) C-130 Hercules transport plane that was dispatched to the remote community north of Thunder Bay was delayed Thursday morning but landed later in the afternoon to begin the evacuation.

Community members were put on standby late Wednesday night after Chief Amanda Sainnawap declared a state of emergency.

The forest fire was reported Wednesday afternoon near what community members call Taxi Bay — a landing a few kilometers southeast of the First Nation where community members park their vehicles then take a boat into the community.

The Ministry of Natural Resources says the fire has so far burned away from the community but a wind change is possible and clear weather conditions are making it challenging to get under control.

Ministry of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford said he is working closely with the community.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and activate the necessary resources to ensure the safe evacuation of Pikangikum community members,“ he said in an emailed statement to APTN News.

By Willow Fiddler

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