Help arriving for Ontario firefighters as crews battle 70 active fires

The Ministry of Natural Resources says it's getting plenty of reports of smoke hanging in the air over the region including in Sudbury.

Smoke, falling ash and smell from nearby fires linger over cities

A water bomber appears as a speck in this aerial photo of the North Bay 72 forest fire. The fire, near Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park, measured around 12,000 hectares as of Thursday afternoon, according to the MNRF. (Supplied/Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)

Mandatory evacuation orders for about 20 properties in Temagami have been lifted, but MNRF fire information officer Shayne McCool says residents in the municipality remain on evacuation alert should conditions change.

He says crews are concentrating efforts Thursday on the largest fire in the northeast right now, a 12,000-hectare blaze near Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park.

The MNRF says the fire is only about 10 km from the small communities of Kenabeek and Kerns — located about 90 km northwest of Temagami. McCool says fire rangers have set up sprinkler systems on properties in the area as a precaution.

He says crews also continue to battle fire clusters in Temagami and River Valley.

In total, the MNRF says there are close to 70 active fires in northeastern Ontario Thursday, with only about half of them under control.

The smoke from nearby forest fires north of Sudbury continues to blanket the city. (CBC)

"We do have evacuation alerts in progress, and those are in place to let people know they can leave voluntarily," says McCool. "I would always caution if you're not sure whether you're in a good spot or not as far as fires are concerned, it's always a good idea to maybe leave the area.

"We have helicopters overhead and we do have staff in the areas, so if we do spot people in affected areas, we will approach them with our helicopters and advise them of the risk of safety."

Help from abroad

Crews from across the country are flying in to help. As of Thursday, British Columbia and Alberta had provided 85 additional firefighters for the efforts.

"We're expecting more help to arrive today," explains McCool. "We've got folks coming in from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, more from British-Columbia and Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan to supply some support staff.

McCool says the ministry is hoping for rain, especially in the northeast near the Québec border. But he notes that could be a double-edged sword that could bring more lightning fires.

"The weather will bring what the weather brings, and we'll continue to do the work that we're doing in containing these fires to the best of our abilities," he says.

Young campers evacuated

Around 100 campers aged between 10 and 13 years old were evacuated from Keewaydin Canoe Camp, near Temagami, on Thursday.

Around 100 campers aged between 10 and 13 years old have been evacuated to North Bay from Keewaydin Canoe Camp, near Temagami. (Supplied/City of North Bay)

They've been taken to a community centre in North Bay, where Mayor Al McDonald says the city's emergency management plan has been put into effect.

In a press release, North Bay's Fire Chief Jason Whiteley added that "We were able to pull together resources through the support of the Canadian Red Cross, Nipissing University, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit and the Gathering Place to join the efforts of the members of the City's Emergency Management Team to meet the necessary needs to accommodate the campers that come from many parts of Canada and the United States."

Take caution, Environment Canada says

The MNRF says it's getting plenty of reports of smoke hanging in the air over the region including in Sudbury.

The ministry told CBC News that smoke drift from fires in the Temagami, River Valley and the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park areas is the main cause of the smell.

In Timmins, the city sent out a release stating smoke hanging over the city Thursday was being caused by a forest fire near Elk Lake, located around 200 km away.

A city spokesperson said there was no immediate cause for concern, but that a fire ban within city limits is now in effect.

You can view a map of smoke coverage in northern Ontario here.

Environment Canada adds that people should also take precaution against the smoke. Those at a higher risk should be proactive before the smoke becomes heavy.

  • Limit outdoor activity and strenuous physical activities as much as possible. If you have difficulty breathing, reduce your activities or stop altogether.
  • At home: stay indoors with the windows closed. Turn off your furnace and air conditioner as it may draw smoke indoors. Keep indoor air cleaner by avoiding smoking or burning other materials.
  • In a vehicle: keep the windows closed and set the ventilation system to recirculate.
  • Care for others: Watch out for others who may be more vulnerable to smoke.
  • Leave the area: If you are able to, make arrangements to move to a location with cleaner air.
  • Consult your physician or local health authority for additional advice. Most provinces and territories also offer health advice through a telephone hotline.