Thunder Bay

Residents transported out of Nibinamik First Nation due to nearby forest fires

The forest fire situation in northwestern Ontario remains volatile, with 47 new fires reported over the weekend, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said.

More than 150 active fires in the northwest region, say fire information officials

Sioux Lookout fires 068 and 096 were both caused by lightning strikes. (Submitted/MNRF)

Ontario has brought firefighting resources in from out-of-province in an effort to keep up with a volatile forest fire situation in the northwest, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) said.

Forty-seven new fires were reported in the region over the weekend, bringing the total to 155. The ministry said the majority of new fires were the result of lightning strikes, however a few were human-caused.

The fires caused officials in Nibinamik First Nation, which is located about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, to request transport for residents to Kapuskasing, fire information officials said, adding that issues with smoke and a power outage were the main concerns.

Four fires were burning in close proximity to Nibinamik as of Sunday evening and fire crews remained in the community Monday.

One-hundred-and-five residents were flown out on Saturday, according to Andrew Morrison, a spokesperson with Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety, while another 136 were scheduled to be transported on Sunday.
A smoke column was visible from the Trans-Canada Highway and Nipigon as a forest fire burned in the Kama Hill area on the weekend. (Submitted/MNRF)

Any remaining people that community leaders wanted transported to safety would be flown out Monday, Morrison said.

Nibinamik isn't the only northern community with forest fires nearby: fire management resources have also been stationed in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), Deer Lake, Wunnumin Lake, Eabametoong, Neskantaga and Sandy Lake, the ministry said.

"At this point in time ... we don't have direct fire threat to any community," Deb MacLean, a fire information officer with the province's Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services centre in Dryden said, adding that that situation could change quickly under the right circumstances.

"The situation is definitely unfolding," she said.

Nipigon-area fire causing heavy smoke on Trans-Canada Highway

Further south, a fire in the Kama Hill area is causing smoky conditions along the Trans-Canada Highway in the Nipigon area, which is east of Thunder Bay, the ministry said. Officials have warned travelers of reduced visibility.

The community of Armstrong, about 250 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, was also under a heavy smoke haze on August 13 due to northern fires, but there are no fires in close proximity, the ministry said.

Two CL-415 water bombers from Quebec are being used in the northwest to help combat the fires, ministry officials said, adding that another aircraft — capable of both transport and firefighting — is also in the region from Minnesota.

Firefighters from northeastern Ontario have also reportedly been deployed to the region. MacLean added that Manitoba is also supplying "quick-strike" air support on forest fires near the provincial border.

Weather could help or harm

The fire situation will likely remain volatile for several days due to hot and windy conditions as well as a pattern of lightning strikes, ministry officials warned. Southern parts of the northwest are expected to see rain, but more lightning could accompany it.

"We may have a little bit of relief, maybe with some cloud cover, higher humidity and even rain, but if we get lightning strike activity ... then we can anticipate an ongoing situation," MacLean said.

The ministry said the region's active fires are expected to grow in size over the coming days.

Meanwhile, Ontario continues to support British Columbia in that province's forest fire management efforts. Currently, more than 60 Ontario staff are in British Columbia, the ministry said.