It’s been a difficult week for staff with the Aviation, Forest Fires and Emergency Services branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Firefighters are dealing with 90 active forest fires in the region, one of which has caused evacuations.
Kenora Fire 71, which is roughly 20 kilometres northwest of Wabaseemoong First Nation, has grown to over 6,800 hectares since its discovery on July 15. As a result, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has declared a state of emergency. Evacuations began last night.
Values protection equipment installed by fire crews has so far been successful. To date no structures are known to have been lost. Many crews on Kenora Fire 71 are from Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and the United States, as many local crews are battling fires in the northeast.
Approximately 20 fire ranger crews continue to install sprinkler systems on structural values, and lay hose lines around the perimeter of the fire. Helicopters and waterbombers are also on scene. An incident command team has been assigned to these fires with a basecamp in Minaki as a staging area for a full suppression response, once resources are in place.
Staff are also dealing with a number of fires in the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, west of Red Lake. There are currently 13 forest fires in the park’s boundaries, and they have been growing.
“There’s a number of fires burning in the northern portion of the park since July 13. Fire ranger crews are protecting some outpost fishing cabins in the area with sprinkler units,” says Fire Information Officer with the MNRF, Chris Marchand.
“Red Lake Fire 76 is now 5,000 hectares in size. Neighbouring to north is Red lake Fire 81 which is now 4,200 hectares. Red Lake Fire 97 has grown to 2,300 hectares. The MNRF is relocating crews from manned fires in response to the significant growth,” Marchand added.
Currently the hazard is high across most of the region with pockets of extreme hazard in the Red Lake and Kenora districts while the far north is showing a low to moderate hazard.
Environment Canada has issued an air quality advisory for many northern communities in the Kenora district. Residents in the affected areas are warned of high levels of air pollution from nearby forest fires.
The Red Lake, Perrault Falls, Lac Seul, Ear Falls, Woodland Caribou Park, Pickle Lake, Cat Lake, Summer Beaver, Wunnummin Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Pikangikum, Poplar Hill, MacDowell, Sandy Lake, Weagamow Lake and Deer Lake areas are under the advisory.