As some Parry Sound 33 evacuees head home, hundreds still wait in frustration

As some Parry Sound 33 evacuees head home, hundreds still wait in frustration
CBC.ca

Residents of Henvey Inlet First Nation are finally allowed back home after evacuation orders were lifted Wednesday.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry crews continue to make progress on containing the 11,362-hectare forest fire, near Key River, known as Parry Sound 33, which started on July 18.
 
The ministry says the fire didn't grow on Wednesday, but although containment continues the fire remains active.
 
"There is still potential for high fire behaviour given the very dry fuels in the area," the ministry stated.
 
"Aggressive fire suppression operations are ongoing throughout the entire fire area."
 
Heading home
Angele Dubois is one of almost 200 people who were forced out of the First Nation community, almost three weeks ago, due to the blaze.
 
Though Henvey Inlet remains under alert, should conditions suddenly change, Dubois says she's just happy to be able to return home.
 
"I just have a whole new appreciation for day-to-day life there, the nature that surrounds us, the community itself, all the structures, the buildings, the services we have," she said.
 
"I never expected to be so excited to get back to, like, everyday life."
 
Dubois also gave her thanks to ministry firefighters, as well as Henvey Inlet Chief Wayne McQuabbie and council for "coordinating all of this and making sure everyone was safe."
 
Dubois spent the first three days of the evacuation with her mother in a Parry Sound hotel, before heading to Sudbury to stay with a cousin.
 
She explained the long days away from home created a longing for her own bed and the scenic views of her community — but also for some unexpected luxuries, like her electric toothbrush.
 
Dubois added it's important to remain aware of the nearby forest fire, that the ministry says is still not completely under control.
 
"It makes me feel cautious," she said. "I'll have my bag packed in the car and ready to go if I have to go. Make sure my phone is charged and the ringer is on. But hopefully we just get to stay home and let normal life resume."
 
Hundreds still 'frustrated, angry'
Meanwhile, a few kilometres away, hundreds of people still aren't allowed back to their homes and cottages around the Key, Pickerel and French rivers, west of Highway 69.
 
Many of those properties are accessible only by waterways still being used by ministry crews to fight the fire, explained Jennifer Kivinen, co-president of the Key River Area Association.
 
She owns a cottage that is among those that have been evacuated.
 
"It's a moving target," Kivinen said about when she expects to get the green light to return.
 
"We don't want to get in the way of the firefighters and the fire suppression teams. We want to give them the respect and the space they need to get this fire under control."
 
"When they say it's clear for us to go, we'll be very anxious to get there and assess our properties and assess any damage," she said.
 
Kivinen admitted she and fellow property owners are angry about the alleged cause of the fire — some workers on a major wind-turbine project on the eastern shores of Georgian Bay have said Parry Sound 33 was sparked by activity on the site.
 
But Kivinen added they're not quite sure where to direct those emotions, with an investigation into the fire's cause currently ongoing.
 
"Right now, our anger is falling on deaf ears," she said.
 
"We feel like we have a loss of enjoyment right now. We missed out on the long weekend and this is what people who have camps and cottages look forward to, so there's a huge sense of frustration, disappointment, we're angry...we just want to get there."
 
Kivinen noted the association "is super thankful for the MNRF, the OPP, the municipality [of Killarney], they seem to be providing us with fact-based information."
 
Jim Rook, emergency manager for the municipality of Killarney, said evacuation orders remain in place, but added he's hopeful that could change over the next few days.
 
The village of Killarney itself has not been affected by the fire.
 
"We want to be realistic and fair, and we don't want to get people revved up," Rook said Wednesday afternoon.
 
"But I think we're going to have some positive changes within the next day, so that will be good."