Thunder Bay

Rainfall slows forest fire activity in northwestern Ontario

Recent rainfall has helped slow the activity of some of the larger forest fires that for weeks have plagued northwestern Ontario, where 115 were burning Wednesday afternoon.

115 forest fires burning in region as of Wednesday afternoon

One hundred and fifteen forest fires were burning in northwestern Ontario on Wednesday afternoon. (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry/Twitter)

Recent rainfall has helped slow the activity of some of the larger forest fires that for weeks have plagued northwestern Ontario, where 115 were burning Wednesday afternoon.

Jonathan Scott, a fire information officer with Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES), said Tuesday's storm brought significant rainfall to some areas.

"There were scattered amounts," he said. "Certain areas got upwards of 50 millimetres, but other areas got less, like two millimetres.

"As it stands now, recent rainfall has reduced fire behaviour on some larger fires."

The downside of such storms, Scott said, is the lightning strikes that accompany them, as they can cause further forest fire starts.

Lightning sparks new fires

Seven new fires were discovered in the northwest on Tuesday, Scott said.

"Most of them were small, under one hectare in size, and a few of them are already out," he said. "Those fires were a result of recent lightning passing through the northwest region.

"A lot of areas are still receptive to lightning fires and that resulted in new fires," added Scott.

Fire crews continue suppression efforts on the region's larger fires, including:

  • Kenora 51, now at 200,500 hectares and burning 20 kilometres north of Wabaseemoong, on the north side of Umfreville Lake. AFFES said rainfall and high humidity may temporarily limit the spread of the fire. Wabaseemoong is being evacuated.
  • Red Lake 65, at about 20,200 hectares and located six kilometres west of Poplar Hill First Nation. The fire is listed as smouldering. Poplar Hill was evacuated nearly a month ago, but residents are returning to their homes this week.
  • Red Lake 51, about 24 kilometres west of Deer Lake First Nation. The fire is about 53,500 hectares and listed as smouldering. Deer Lake was evacuated about a month ago, but residents are returning home this week.
  • Red Lake 77, at about 32,800 hectares and burning about 33 kilometres west of Red Lake. It is listed as smouldering, with some open flame on the east and west flanks. Fireguard is being built, and crews are working hose lines with assistance from helicopters, AFFES said.

A restricted fire zone remains in effect in the Kenora, Fort Frances, Dryden and Thunder Bay districts, and portions of the Sioux Lookout, Red Lake and Nipigon districts. Outdoor burning is prohibited in those areas.

The Ontario government earlier issued an emergency order for the northwest that allows the province to take special measures "to ensure the safety of people and the protection of critical property."

The restrictions apply to certain industrial operations that have the potential to cause sparks and start fires. A complete list of affected operations is available on Ontario's forest fire information page.

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