Firefighters battle dozens of forest fires in northern Ontario

Jul 24, 2018 | News

Smoke from Pembroke forest fire on July 21 threatens Highway 17 north of Ottawa. (@ONforestfires)

Lindsay Charlton

Forest fires are raging across Northern Ontario as firefighters from across Canada fight to keep them contained.

There are now 55 fires smoldering across the northern portion of the province, from west of Ottawa to north of Kenora, to the shores of the Hudson Bay. Of these fires, 21 are reported to be out of control.

There are evacuation orders and alerts in place in various communities including the Key Harbour community in the Perry Sound area where one of the largest fires, Perry Sound 33, is blazing out of control over 5,000 hectares, according to The Weather Network.

This particular fire is currently under investigation by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

There has been speculation about the cause of the fire. Workers from a major wind turbine project by the Pattern Energy Group told the CBC there were little fires that started from their machines but the one in question was too much for workers to control.

Pattern Energy Group released an official statement to the CBC following questions about how the fire started and if the company had any fire suppression protocols in place when starting this project.

Much of the cottage areas throughout Ontario have been under a strict no open fire ban due to dry and humid conditions increasing the risk of forest fires in the area. The MNRF issued a “restricted fire zone” which has expanded to include much of southern Ontario.

With smoke filling the skies through containment efforts, the OPP temporarily closed Highway 17 in the Pembroke district north of Ottawa. They are warning drivers that smoke will be visible from various highways throughout Northern Ontario and to watch for emergency vehicles on the roads, encouraging drivers to drive safe and help to fire rangers remain safe while working.

In addition to Ontario firefighters’ efforts, help has been enlisted from other provinces as well as Mexico and the United States who have sent firefighter crews and equipment to assist.

Fire rangers are looking for assistance from Mother Nature, hoping for rain as the fires continue. The Weather Network states there is a small chance of rain in some key areas this week, however they are concerned about lightning in the forecast, which has been primarily responsible for the spike in forest fires this year.

The fires blazing through Northern Ontario started just before the tragic wildfires raging in Greece, leaving at least 74 people dead. The fires in Greece are being reported as the worst since the 2007 fires ravaged the southern Peloponnese peninsula east of Athens.