Young fire evacuees 'touch a truck' during visit from Timmins emergency services

While evacuees from Pikangikum First Nation seek refuge in Timmins, local emergency services wanted to give them a chance to explore fire trucks, a police cruiser, and an ambulance up close.

Marc Depatie, the Timmins Police Service's communications coordinator, said many children from smaller communities — which make up a large portion of these evacuees — may find the loud and flashing vehicles startling.

And so the goal for the trio of emergency services is to let people know that "the men and women in uniform are your friends."

"They are easily approachable and if you’re in a situation where you’re perhaps uncomfortable or your safety’s being jeopardized … the man or woman in uniform is there to assist you," Depatie said.

As the youngsters learned about the emergency vehicles, Timmins' fire chief and emergency management coordinator, Tom Laughren, said an event like this is a much-needed distraction from the situation that has forced them to leave their homes.

With around 50 extreme fires in the northwest region raging on with no clear end in sight, he said acquainting evacuees with the city's emergency services, ensures they know they are being looked after.

"Overall, it’s a challenge to keep activities, keep people busy, but the community has been fantastic because we know it’s not easy for them," Laughren said. "We continue to try to work with the community on activities that they would like to see."

Despite the uncertainty of the situation, Pikangikum First Nation Elder Betty Owen said she is not worried because local services are keeping them comfortable.

Her main concern is that her community stays well and happy until they are able to return home.

"They’re nice people, they donate stuff like clothing," Owen said. "I hope there will be no more smoke over there and (that we can) go home safely."

A sentiment shared by evacuees across the province, though Laughren said this looks to be a summer-long issue.

He said with consistently dry weather and fire crews working to the bone to quell the flames, he said there’s ultimately one thing that will determine how long this evacuation will last.

"We really need rain," Laughren said. "Mother Nature needs to help out."