Oxdrift firefighters were joined by crews from Dryden and the MNR, as they protected homes on Lever Road yesterday afternoon.

Oxdrift fire chief Donna Cockle says it spread quickly in the wind.

"At first, the fire was very small. It was just a small grassfire. That's basically all I thought it was going to be. After I got to the fire hall and returned with a truck, the situation changed drastically, as the fire had headed off into the trees towards Lever Road," she said.

"There was a real good wind going on, which fueled all that fire," Cockle noted.

On arrival at Hwy. 502, Oxdrift Fire reported the fire was into the forest trees and crowning. Kurz said an immediate concern with the winds were the seven residents on Lever Road, east of Highway 502.

Across the district, there were at least two other fires of concern, with the MNR and the OPP dealing with a fire at Shoal Lake that threatened the road to the community of Shoal Lake 39 First Nation, as well as the Trans-Canada. Near Sioux Lookout, fire crews were dealing with a blaze at Hwy. 516.

"There was no road access to it. So, basically, we were stuck close to the roads trying to fight the fire," Cockle said.

Ministry of Natural Resources crews joined with Oxdrift, as they began attacking the fire off Hwy. 502 and behind the homes on Lever Road.

The OPP were requested to evacuate all residents on Lever Road for safety, as the fire was moving east swiftly through the trees. The OPP also shut down Hwy. 502 and Hwy. 594 with assistance from the Dryden Police Service for a period of time.

The Oxdrift fire chief in command then requested mutual aid from the Dryden Fire Service, Machin and Wabigoon Fire Departments to attend Lever Road and assist in protecting the residential structures there.

"Because of the fires that were around in the area, there were no water bombers in this area. So, that was a delay in getting a water bomber here," she said.

The MNR air attack crew of a helicopter with a water bucket, MNR ground crews, and the fire department's apparatus and companies protecting the homes were successful in keeping the fire from structures. The fire burnt to within 50 ft. of two homes, before being stopped.

"The helicopter was the first one on scene. He was basically doing a fly-around, doing a size-up and giving it to MNR. Then, he went and hooked up a bucket, then started to dump water," Cockle added. "Without that helicopter, I don't think we would've saved the houses that we did."

A CL415 water bomber aircraft also arrived, and it knocked down the main body of forest fire burning. Ministry crews were also able to secure a water line around the estimated five hectare fire perimeter after that.

At 8:30 p.m. Oxdrift fire command and MNR declared the fire held. Then all residents were allowed back home. Machin, Wabigoon and Dryden fire units were then released from the scene.

The Oxdrift Fire Department and MNR crews will remain on scene over the next few days to make sure the fire's completely out.

For more information:
Shoal Lake Road open again
Fire west of Dryden closes Hwy. 502
Traffic resumes on Hwy. 516
Current fire conditions
Highway information