Previously evacuated members of Wabaseemoong Independent Nation are now returning to their homes. The Aviation, Forest Fires and Emergency Services branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says that the 70-80 evacuees are now able to return home, following improved air quality in the community.

The ministry adds that more crews from Minnesota have made their way to a base-camp in Minaki, to help fight Kenora Fire 71 – located approximately 20 kilometres north of Wabaseemoong. Now, 160 firefighters are battling the blaze, and reportedly are making good progress with suppressing the fire.

“A bit of wet weather and relatively high humidity over the past few days has helped to reduce the fire behaviour to minimal levels on Kenora Fire 71,” said Fire Information Officer Chris Marchand.

“This is giving crews the chance to establish more hose lines. Firefighters from all over Canada and the U.S. working on the fire. Some crews have been re-tasked to a new fire a few kilometres north of Kenora Fire 71. Progress is being made, but conditions can rebound and fire activity can still increase.”

Although the fire has grown to almost 11,000 hectares, the ministry continues to stress that the fire is not a direct threat to the community. Heavy bucket helicopters continue to attack the blaze, and successful aerial ignition has helped to bring the fire to natural boundaries. Crews also continue to maintain sprinkler systems on structures near the fire. To date, no structures have been lost.

The Treaty Three Police Service has been working with emergency response and community stakeholders to ensure the safety of community members. Police wanted to thank emergency service partners, including the OPP, Kenora Fire and Emergency Services, the MNRF, community stakeholders, the community of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation and the Canadian Red Cross for their help and support. 

Marchand added that there are still smoke drifts in the community, and those with urgent health concerns due to air quality can contact Tele-Health Ontario at 1-888-797-0000.

The Emergency Area Order is still in effect in the area, to ensure public safety. As a result, the order restricts travel on Werner Lake Road, as well as Crown land use and travel within the boundaries of the EAO.

As well as Kenora Fire 71, crews with the MNRF have also been fighting a variety of fairly-active fires in the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, near Red Lake. There are restrictions on back-country travel, canoe routes and a number of lakes.

There are currently 78 active fires in the region, 69 of which are either under observation, being held or under control.

The forest fire hazard is high in the southern portions of the region and Nipigon district. The northern portions of the region have a moderate forest fire hazard.

For more information:
Wabaseemoong fire ‘no direct threat’, MNRF

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