Northwestern Ontario wildfires set to spread
Smoke forces people out of several First Nation communities
Fire crews in northwestern Ontario are scrambling to contain nearly 100 forest fires amid warnings that dozens of new fires could break out in the days ahead.
Mitch Miller, a fire information officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources, said from Dryden that there are 96 active fires burning in the remote northwestern region.
More than 30 new blazes are expected to break out in the coming days as the fires spread southward.
"We have got increasingly hot weather, we're getting drier conditions and we've had lightning strikes just about every day," he said.
The fires so far have threatened some First Nations communities and changes in the wind will raise new challenges, he said.
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"We've got firefighters and water bombers and helicopters working on fires from Kenora over towards Nipigon and all the way north and what we're seeing is increasing fire activity moving to the south."
Hydro lines, highways, cabins, and people working in the forest industry will be at more risk as the fires move south, he said.
More than 2,000 staff are being helped by another 500 reinforcements from B.C.
Miller said firefighters are dressed in fire-retardant clothing including long sleeves and pants and carrying 25-kilogram packs, so they have to be careful to avoid heatstroke by drinking enough fluids.
"It's very hot and very strenuous but they're doing an excellent job," he said.
Many northwestern communities are dealing with smoke issues and are planning for evacuations with federal and provincial authorities. "It's a real dynamic situation and it doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon," Miller said.
Canadian Forces Hercules transport aircraft are flying vulnerable residents out of several remote First Nations, CBC's Jody Porter said.
Sandy Lake First Nation Chief Adam Fiddler said some people from his community were being sent to Sioux Lookout or Thunder Bay.
"No matter which way the wind blows, we're going to have heavy smoke," he said. "So our first phase evacuees are the ones with the chronic health problems — the breathing problems — the ones that need to get away from the smoke."
More than 500 people from several First Nations are already bunking down in a recreation centre in the small town of Greenstone, Ont.
Mayor Ron Beaulieu said he's expecting even more people to arrive.
"Beds are coming in from other areas and by the time these people get here everything is set up and they can sleep in a bed and have a place to eat," he said.At least four fires are also burning in northeastern Ontario — one near Timmins and three near Cochrane.
The Ministry of Natural Resources said Monday that smoke was visible in the sky over most of northern Ontario, adding that it spread "as far as the eastern provinces."
CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says the wind is expected to shift periodically over the next few days, which could push smoke farther south into Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Ont., and Kenora, Ont.
With files from CBC's Jody Porter and The Canadian Press