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Kenora fire caused by humans, OPP report

After collecting information from witnesses, Kenora OPP say they believe a large fire that broke out in Kenora Wednesday was human-caused.

Waterbombers fought blaze in Kenora on Wednesday

After collecting information from witnesses, Kenora OPP say they believe a large fire that broke out in Kenora Wednesday was human-caused.

The fire, which was reported around 2 p.m. in a wooded area of 9th Street North, led to the evacuation of Valleyview school, area homes, and closed some roads.

It was brought under control late Wednesday afternoon by Ministry of Natural Resources water bombers and crews, along with the Kenora fire department.

Waterbombers fought a blaze in Kenora on Wednesday. (Courtesy Ben Smaha)

Kenora Fire Chief Warren Brinkman said two planes dropped water on the blaze for about an hour. He said a hose line around the fire overnight kept the fire contained.

With the fire contained, students were back at school Thursday morning. Residents returned to their homes late Wednesday afternoon.

School principal Joan Kantola said nothing like this has happened before, but students reacted well.

"They were quite collected," she said.

"We had a few of our senior kindergarten kids and our Grade 1 kids that seemed to be quite emotional. But their teachers were able to kind of calm them and reassure them that we were going to a safe place and everybody would be just fine."

Fire was 'jumping from tree to tree'

Brinkman said the fire started just before 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. 

"[It was] jumping from tree to tree and burning quite a good swath," he said, adding that high winds made the fire more difficult to contain. 

Kantola worried about the high winds too, as she saw the fire behind the school. 

"There was a lot of gray smoke, there was a lot of flame and there was a lot of dark, black smoke," she said. "And it was moving.  You could see that it was moving quite quickly with the wind." 

Kantola ordered students and staff to leave the school immediately. 

She said practice from past fire drills paid off. 

"By the time we got our kids lined up in the front of the building... with their classes and their teachers, they were making their way down the road safely … probably within about two and a half minutes," she said.

Brinkman said Kenora firefighters and Ministry of Natural Resources staff would continue to fight the remaining fire on Thursday.

"We've got a day's worth of work … for sure to actually … put it down," he said.

Police said the investigation into the cause of the fire and those responsible is continuing.

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