Air quality a concern as over 110 forest fires burn in northwestern Ontario
CBC News

More than 110 forest fires were burning in northwestern Ontario as of Tuesday morning, with smoke drift leading Environment Canada to issue air quality statements for parts of the region.

Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) said 18 of the new fires were discovered by early Monday evening.

Several of the new fires are in the Red Lake district, where the mayor has said an evacuation is likely:

  • Red Lake 142, not under control at 200 hectares, near the Malette River, approximately 112 kilometres northwest of Red Lake.
  • Red Lake 143, three hectares and not under control, near the Malette River, approximately 114 kilometres northwest of Red Lake.
  • Red Lake 146, not under control at 125 hectares, near west of Spoonbill Lake, approximately 108 kilometres northwest of Red Lake.
  • Red Lake 147, not under control at 332 hectares, 110 kilometres northwest of Red Lake.
  • Red Lake 148, not under control at one hectare, near Bug Lake, approximately 13 kilometres south of Red Lake.
  • Red 149, 150 and 151, all not under control at 0.1 hectares, near Kotyk Lake, about 60 kilometres northeast of Red Lake.

Evacuations underway

The municipality of Red Lake continues to be concerned about three larger fires burning in the area: Kenora 51 (114,300 hectares), Red Lake 77 (23,400 hectares), and Red Lake 16 (120,700 hectares).

In an update posted on Facebook on Monday afternoon, Red Lake Mayor Fred Mota advised residents that an evacuation remains likely, unless the Red Lake area sees significant rainfall.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General has co-ordinated evacuations of both Poplar Hill and Deer Lake due to the fires.

Red Lake 65 is about 16,000 hectares and burning seven kilometres northwest of Poplar Hill First Nation, with AFFES saying smoke is posing challenges for the use of firefighting aircraft.

Red Lake 51 is about 24 kilometres west of Deer Lake First Nation and about 48,000 hectares in size. AFFES said the Deer Lake area recently saw about 24 millimetres of rainfall, which has slowed the fire's power.

Air quality statements are in effect for these communities and surrounding areas:

  • Atikokan
  • Dryden
  • Ignace
  • Kenora
  • Red Lake
  • Ear Falls
  • Pikangikum

A restricted fire zone remains in effect in the Kenora, Fort Frances, Dryden and Thunder Bay districts, and portions of the Sioux Lookout, Red Lake and Nipigon districts. Outdoor burning is prohibited in those areas.

Last week, the province issued an emergency order for northwestern Ontario, which allows Ontario to take special measures "to ensure the safety of people and the protection of critical property."

New provincial restrictions

On Tuesday, the province announced it's implementing new restrictions on certain mining, rail, construction and transportation operations that have the potential to cause sparks and start fires.

The new restrictions, which come into effect Wednesday and fall under the emergency order, apply to certain specific drilling operations, using heavy machinery with rubber tires and no chains, and rail production grinding, in the region.

It marks the second time the province has announced restrictions for the northwest under the emergency order. On Monday, it moved forward with new restrictions on the use of mechanized equipment and power saws to harvest or process wood, as well as welding, torching and grinding.

The restrictions will remain in place until further notice.


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