During the week of Nov. 10, 2019, an ice jam downriver of the Bearskin Lake First Nation community caused the river and surrounding lakes to rapidly flood. The community declared a state of emergency and issued an order of evacuation for the 360 residents.
Bearskin Lake First Nation is accessible only by plane or by ice roads. Too early in the year for travel on ice roads, the 360 residents were evacuated by plane to Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay.
ADRA* Canada was requested by Bearskin Lake to join the emergency response efforts. ADRA’s response was made possible in large part by a partnership with Independent First Nations Alliance (IFNA) and support from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) Ontario Region.
ADRA responded in Bearskin Lake in collaboration with the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, federal and non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross, and other agencies including IFNA, the Windigo First Nations Council, and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
Daniel Saugh, ADRA’s Canadian programs manager, in collaboration with ADRA volunteer Nicholas Rhone assembled a team of skilled workers to fly to Bearskin Lake, at the community’s request. Rhone is also the Deputy Fire Chief and Community Emergency Management Coordinator for Lac Seul First Nation. Operation Home Safe was launched. The team conducted home assessments and visual inspections to check for safe conditions such as potential hazards, heating, leaking or freezing pipes, damaged equipment, care of pets and preparation of pet food. These home assessments were conducted during daily rounds.
ADRA established a support emergency operations Center in Sioux Lookout to ensure that emergency teams and residents still in Bearskin Lake had all their supplies and needs taken care of. ADRA and partners are supporting the community until every evacuee is returned home.
Extraordinary efforts and leadership of the Bearskin Lake Chief and Council during this time were crucial, shared Saugh. That local leadership expressed gratitude for the work accomplished together.
“I don’t know how to thank you … You are welcome anytime,” said one local leader to Saugh.
“We are very happy to have provided support, assistance, and a presence to the Bearskin Lake First Nation Community,” says Saugh. “They are in our own country. We had this opportunity to show God’s love through compassion and care, letting His light shine through us.”
*ADRA stands for Adventist Development and Relief Agency.
— This article originally appeared on the ADRA Canada website; click here to read the original story published