Thunder Bay

More than 130 forest fires burning in northwestern Ontario Sunday

More than 130 forest fires were burning in northwestern Ontario on Sunday, with Environment Canada issuing air quality statements for much of the region due to smoke.

10 new fires discovered on Saturday, according to AFFES

There were more than 130 forest fires burning in northwestern Ontario as of Sunday morning. (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry/Twitter)

More than 130 forest fires were burning in northwestern Ontario on Sunday, with Environment Canada issuing air quality statements for much of the region due to smoke.

The air quality statements are in effect for the Nipigon, Marathon, Pickle Lake, Webequie, Geraldton, Manitouwadge, Hornepayne, Red Lake, Pikangikum, and Sioux Lookout areas, with Environment Canada warning of high levels of air pollution due to forest fire smoke.

"Smoke plumes from active fires in northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba will continue, resulting in deteriorated air quality," the agency said in a statement. "Low visibilities can also be expected, particularly in areas closer to the fires."

Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) said 10 new fires were discovered in the region by  early Saturday evening. 

The new fires include:

  • Red Lake 184, which is not under control and located about six kilometres west of Sandy Lake First Nation. The fire is listed as being about 10 hectares in size.
  • Red Lake 185 is 15 hectares and not under control, and located about 14 kilometres south of Keewaywin First Nation.
  • Dryden 86, which is burning about 18 kilometres west of Ignace. The fire is not under control at two hectares.
  • Kenora 113, which is located about five kilometres south of Grassy Narrows First Nation. The fire was listed as under control at 0.1 hectares on Sunday.

Fire crews continue to work on several large established fires in the region, as well.

Among those are:

  • Red Lake 65, which is about 17,000 hectares and burning six kilometers northwest of Poplar Hill First Nation; the community has been evacuated. AFFES said an ignition plan has been approved, and will proceed when conditions are safe. Fire behaviour has been slow due to recent rainfall, higher humidity, and lower winds and temperatures in the area.
  • Red lake 51 is listed as about 51,900 hectares and is located about 24 kilometres west of Deer Lake First Nation; the community has been evacuated. Recent favourable weather has cleared smoke from the area, resulting in better conditions for aerial suppression efforts, AFFES said, and an ignition plan has been approved, and will be enacted when conditions are favourable.
  • Sioux Lookout 60 is about 1,480 hectares and burning about eight kilometres west of Cat Lake First Nation; a partial evacuation of the community has taken place.
  • Red Lake 77, which is about 23,000 hectares and located about 28 kilometres northwest of the community of Madsen, and 33 kilometres west of Red Lake. The fire has not moved significantly closer to the community recently, as weather conditions have slowed fire behaviour, AFFES said.
  • Kenora 51, is about 139,000 hectares and burning in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. The fire is not under control.

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 province has also issued an emergency order for northwestern Ontario, which allows Ontario 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.

The restrictions will remain in place until further notice.

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