Thunder Bay

Forest fire causes evacuation of Red Lake, Ont., highway 105 expected to be compromised by afternoon

A forest fire raging just south of Red Lake, Ont., Tuesday had municipal officials urging residents to evacuate as soon as possible and warning that Highway 105, a main passage in the community, is expected to be compromised by the fire by noon.

Thunder Bay to host evacuees; mayor says fire burning at approximately one kilometre per hour

Water bombers can be seen in the Red Lake area assisting with an active forest fire that has forced about 4,000 people to evacuate the community located about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. (Nick Zook/Facebook)

Red Lake, Ont., municipal officials are urging residents to evacuate the community immediately as a forest fire five kilometres south of the township rages on.

As of Tuesday morning, officials said residents should evacuate as soon as possible, as Highway 105, a main passage in the community is expected to be compromised by the fire by noon.

Early discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) indicate that the community's "main hydro and main corridor will be compromised by noon central time, which means no one will be in or out of the community except for air traffic," said Mayor Fred Mota in an interview with CBC.

The municipality, which is home to more than 4,000 people, and is located about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, issued an initial evacuation order at around 9:30 p.m. Monday night, urging vulnerable people to leave immediately. A state of emergency in conjunction with the MNRF was also declared, according to the mayor.

"There's still people out, the gas stations were filled, people just wanted to get out and be safe, and that was our message to our residents," said Mota, who was still in Red Lake as of Tuesday morning.

Residents have been asked to register for temporary shelter at the township office in Ear Falls, Ont., or at the Dryden, Ont., recreation arena.

Thunder Bay to host evacuees

Residents from the community will also be flown to Thunder Bay for shelter, according to a news release issued by Thunder Bay city officials on Tuesday afternoon.

"We have been in discussions with Dr. Janet DeMille, Medical Officer of Health, as it relates to the arrival and hosting of additional people within the city during a pandemic," said Norm Gale, Thunder Bay's city manager.

Officials in Red Lake, Ont., located about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, urged residents to evacuate Tuesday as a forest fire burned nearby. (CBC News)

In the statement, Gale said COVID-19 prevention measures are in place in the city, and evacuees "will abide by the health and safety measures in our community."

"We have also been informed by Dr. DeMille that at this time there are no active COVID‐19 cases in the community of Red Lake," said Gale.

In addition to Thunder Bay, Red Lake is sending residents to a number of other communities in the region including Dryden, Kenora and Pickle Lake, according to the release.

Fire more than 500 hectares in size

The fire, called Red Lake 49, was first reported by Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services on Monday.

At the time, the blaze was reported to be approximately five hectares in size, with five water bombers active in the area to assist with the efforts.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire is reported to be 550 hectares in size, according to the MNRF.

Residents in Red Lake, Ont., are under a state of emergency and an evacuation order due to a forest fire burning south of the township. Volunteer firefighters and a team from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry were actively battling the blaze as of Tuesday morning. (Sol Mamakwa/Twitter)

"It just kept growing due to the winds that we were experiencing here in Red Lake and there were large gusts this morning," said Mota.

"There's predictions of the same type of wind behaviour, which is burning at approximately a kilometre per hour." 

Ministry firefighters and volunteer firefighters continue to battle the blaze.