Timmins fire crews aided by calmer winds

Lighter winds and cooler temperatures are making things easier for crews battling forest fires near Timmins, Ont., that have been burning since last weekend.
Calmer winds are making things easier for fire crews battling a forest fire near Timmins, Ont. (CBC)

Lighter winds and cooler temperatures are making things easier for crews battling forest fires near Timmins, Ont., that have been burning since last weekend.

The largest fire, called fire No. 9, is about 30 to 35 kilometres south of the city of Timmins.

On Friday, winds reaching 60 km/h hindered fire crews but Michelle Nowak of Ontario’s natural resources ministry said Saturday’s weather is "helping fire suppression efforts."

"This morning those winds have been cut in half," she told CBC News. "They've changed direction and now we're looking at a north, north-easterly flow so not blowing back toward the city of Timmins."

The fire has burned more than 41,000 hectares, is about 70 kilometres long and about eight to 10 kilometres wide.

Evacuation orders issued Friday forced about 800 people to leave cottages and campgrounds around Timmins, which has about 43,000 residents. Those evacuation orders remain in place Saturday and the city remains under a state of emergency.

An evacuation order issued the same day for Kamiskotia, located about 30 kilometres west of Timmins, has since been lifted.

Another evacuation order issued earlier this week saw 118 residents from the nearby Mattagami First Nation relocate to Kapuskasing, where they remained on Saturday.

Air quality improving

Daniel Geoffroy was among those who returned to his home in Kamiskotia late Friday and noticed a significant improvement in air quality.

"Tuesday night, the smoke was really, really bad," he said. "It smelled like if you're near a dump and they're doing a burn, it smelled like that. It didn't smell like a nice bush fire."

"The skies were a really, really nasty, colour. The sun was like a red ball. It was eerie," he said. "I think if the wind had kept going ... in the same direction, I think we would be having more problems."

Nowak said the fire has not grown in the past 24 hours.

She said air suppression crews along with 25, four-person FireRanger crews from Ontario will be working the fire on Saturday. 

An additional 20 four-person crews from British Columbia are expected to join the effort on Sunday.

Ontario Provincial Police officers were prepared to perform more evacuations "as needed."

"Our primary focus is on security of persons who have chosen or by accident are ignoring the order to evacuate the area," said provincial police spokesman Marc Depatie.

Kirkland Lake fire situation improves

Meanwhile, some people who were evacuated because of a fire near Kirkland Lake are being told they can return home.

But emergency officials in the community of almost 10,000 said things were looking up Saturday, with the blaze reduced to 2,635 hectares from 2,757.

Schools were shut down as a precaution Friday, as was the courthouse. 

Evacuated residents along Goldthorpe Road will be allowed to return home as early as 6 p.m. on Saturday, while some residents on Goodfish Lake Road will be allowed back to their homes by 10 a.m. Sunday, pending any changes in conditions.

With files from The Canadian Press