Fire that destroyed nursing station forces Ontario First Nation to evacuate patients

A remote northwestern Ontario First Nation has evacuated people with specific medical needs after a fire destroyed its nursing station, the community’s chief said on Tuesday.  
Chief Russell Wesley of Cat Lake First Nation said people who need treatment for cancer, diabetes and addiction support were among those who left the community on Monday evening.

“Those people were removed from the community,” he said.

“There’s long-term planning happening now in terms of a long-term solution, our technical teams at the tribal council are working on that … there’s a lot of effort to resolve the situation very quickly.”

The chief said the First Nation has established a team to work on restoring health services following the Saturday night fire in the Ojibway community of about 650 people, located about 440 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont. 

“I’ve had to declare a state of emergency to access certain services,” Wesley said. 

“The nurses that are right there, are still there, and they never actually left.”

He said the six nurses who have remained in the community are currently staying at the local fire base. 

The Nishnawbe Aski Police Service has said it is investigating the circumstances of the fire, with support from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal. 

Police have said officers in the Cat Lake First Nation detachment were called to the fire at the nursing station just before 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, and worked with community members to contain the blaze.

They said it was deemed “too dangerous” to continue battling the fire by 11:46 p.m.

“The building appears to be a total loss, however, no injuries were reported as a result of the fire,” police said. 

“The investigation remains ongoing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

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