Thunder Bay

More crews sent to fight forest fire near Eabametoong First Nation in northern Ontario

As operations wrap up for the Red Lake 49 forest fire, crews continue to ramp up support for the Nipigon 45 blaze, burning about 35 kilometres west of Eabametoong First Nation.

It is unclear when evacuees will be able to return home to Eabametoong First Nation

Around 550 people from the Eabametoong First Nation are currently being hosted in Thunder Bay, Timmins and Kapuskasing, while crews continue to battle a nearby forest fire. Several others were already in Thunder Bay for medical appointments when the fire broke out and were prevented from returning home. The forest fire, known as Nipigon 45, has created poor air quality in the community. (Robert L Sugarhead/Facebook)

More crews are on their way to fight a fire burning about 35 kilometres west of Eabametoong First Nation, in northwestern Ontario.

The firefighters are wrapping up work on Red Lake 49, a fire that threatened the town of Red Lake, Ont. earlier this month and are now ramping up on the Nipigon 45 fire, near Eabametoong.

Vulnerable people from the fly-in First Nation were evacuated from the community on August 12, due to poor air quality as a result of the fire. Evacuees include elders, infants and their families, and those with medical conditions that make them susceptible to the effects of smoke.

On Monday, Harvey Yesno, chief of Eabametoong, said evacuees will return home once the fire is under control.

Everyone returning to the community will now be required to take a COVID-19 test, according to the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority.

Officials with the health authority said the test requirement is a safeguard to ensure none of the evacuees bring the virus back to the remote community. Evacuees will be tested immediately before boarding planes back to the community, once it's safe to do so.

The health authority said community members will be required to isolate and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 when they return from Thunder Bay, Kapuskasing and Timmins.

Fire still not under control

As of Thursday the fire is still listed as not under control by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The blaze encompasses about 6600 hectares, but remains 35 kilometers from the Eabametoong First Nation.

Chris Marchand, information officer with the ministry's Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services branch, said Wednesday the fire has been exhibiting "low behaviour" due to light rainfall and higher humidity values.

He said the smoke output has been down as well due to recent weather patterns.

As of Thursday morning, a total of 27 crews are working to suppress the fire.

The ministry said firefighters will continue "suppression activities focused on consolidating hose lines, and establishing line camps and helipads."