Ontario's Opposition is calling on the government to declare a state of emergency over wildfires burning in the province's northwestern region, saying the premier "must stop ignoring the wildfire crisis."
In a letter to Doug Ford, two NDP legislators who represent northwestern communities asked the premier to take immediate action to deal with the situation.
"Fire is threatening the safety of families and communities in Kiiwetinoong," wrote Sol Mamakwa and Judith Monteith-Farrell in the letter sent Thursday.
"We are asking you, Premier Doug Ford, to send more help and to declare a state of emergency now. More resources on the ground are needed, without delay, in order to successfully fight these fires and make communities safe again."
Hundreds of residents from five First Nations have been evacuated due to the threat posed by the fires and the impact of smoke from the blazes.
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation urged the province last week to declare a state of emergency over the wildfires, saying it is needed to trigger an immediate response to the situation, including aircraft and watercraft for evacuations.
The organization, which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario, said many of the wildfires are within kilometres of First Nations communities that can only be accessed by air or water.
There are currently 166 fires burning in northwestern Ontario, with 83 of those not under control. Those include 19 new fires that were recorded on Wednesday evening.
A spokesman for the Solicitor General's office said the government has supported the full evacuation of the five First Nations communities.
"As this situation develops, we remain ready to provide all support necessary, alongside our federal partners, to protect the health and wellbeing of individuals currently being impacted by wildfires in the northern part of our province," spokesman Stephen Warner said in a statement.
Residents from North Spirit Lake First Nation and Cat Lake First Nation are currently being evacuated to cities like Sault Ste. Marie and Mississauga, Ont.
Members of Poplar Hill First Nation, Deer Lake First Nation and Pikangikum First Nation were evacuated from their communities earlier this month.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press