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Mexican fire crews to help with forest fire suppression efforts in northwestern Ontario

Jul 18, 2021 05:48AM ● By Editor
Drone footage shows heavy smoke over Red Lake.  Image: Lucas Potter

From CBC News · Thunder Bay -  July 16, 2021 

Mexican forest fire crews are set to arrive in Ontario this weekend to help with fire suppression efforts in the northwest, the province said Friday.

More than 100 firefighters and support staff are expected in Toronto on Saturday, and will help fight fires in northwestern Ontario, the province said.

In a release, the province said the crews from Mexico will be briefed on fire, safety and COVID-19 protocols before receiving their assignments. They'll will remain in their own cohorts while in Ontario.

A 17-person crew from Atlantic Canada is also being dispatched to Ontario. Further details, including when the firefighters are expected to arrive, weren't provided.

The official Twitter account of Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry thanked international partners, also including Quebec and Wisconsin, in helping with the work in northwestern Ontario:

As of Friday morning, nearly 90 forest fires were burning in northwestern Ontario, the province said.

Twenty-two were in the Red Lake district. Two of those are posing serious threats to the municipality of Red Lake, according to a statement issued Thursday afternoon by Mayor Fred Mota:

  • Red Lake 77, burning about 20 kilometres west of the community. It was listed as being more than 17,100 hectares in size and not under control as of Friday morning.
  • Red Lake 16, which has joined with Red Lake 67. The fire is located about 10 kilometres north of Red Lake 77, and was listed as being more than 118,700 hectares and being observed on Friday morning.

Mota said there is a chance Red Lake 77 and Red Lake 16 may join together.

"There is no rain in our immediate forecast," Mota stated. "Our dry conditions remain extreme. The probability of an evacuation still remains likely in our near future."

Four of the dozens of forest fires in northwestern Ontario are most concerning to fire suppression officers and surrounding communities. In the last four days, Deer Lake First Nation, Poplar Hill First Nation and Pikangikum First Nation have begun partial evacuations. Red Lake has warned residents to be prepared to leave, while some have already fled. Graphic: CBC News

A number of other new fires near Red Lake were confirmed by late afternoon Thursday, the province's Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) agency said:

  • Red Lake 113, burning near Stone Lake, about 16 kilometres north of Red Lake. The fire is listed as 0.1 hectares, and not under control.
  • Red Lake 116, near the north shore of Coli Lake, about 35 kilometres north of Red Lake. The 0.1 hectare fire is not under control. 
  • Red Lake 117, west of Lee Lake, about 28 kilometres west of Red Lake. The 0.3 hectare fire is not under control.

Those were among 13 new fires confirmed in the region as of late afternoon Thursday, AFFES said, with more reports still being investigated.

The municipality of Red Lake is giving updates on its Facebook page:

Sioux Lookout 57 was one of the newly confirmed fires, burning about seven kilometres south of Cat Lake First Nation. The 0.3-hectare fire is not under control.

Kenora 99, south of Maynard Lake, approximately 18 kilometres northwest of Grassy Narrows First Nation, is three hectares in size and not under control, AFFES said.

Emergency order in effect

Meanwhile, crews continue with suppression efforts on other fires in the region.

Kenora 51 is listed at about 84,500 hectares and not under control. The fire is burning in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, and crews were establishing hose lines on sections of the fire on Thursday, and maintaining sprinklers on structures in the vicinity of the fire.

Red Lake 65, not under control at more than 12,300 hectares, is about 10 kilometres west of Poplar Hill First Nation, which was recently evacuated due to the fire. Crews are maintaining sprinklers on structures near the fire, and using aerial ignition to bring the fire to natural boundaries along Stout Lake.

Red Lake 51, which is being observed at about 45,770 hectares, is about 26 kilometres west of Deer Lake First Nation. The community is expected to formally request support for a full evacuation on Friday, said David Meekis, a band councillor.

AFFES said Red Lake 51 exhibited low fire behaviour on Thursday, but that will likely increase as the forest dries out over the next few days. Crews are setting up sprinklers on structures in the vicinity of the fire.

A restricted fire zone remains in effect for the Kenora, Fort Frances, Dryden and Thunder Bay districts, and portions of the Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, and Nipigon districts. No outdoor burning is allowed in those areas until further notice.

The province issued an emergency order for northwestern Ontario earlier this week due to fire activity. The order allows the province to invoke "extraordinary powers or measures to mitigate the effects of an emergency" in certain areas, such as access or travel restrictions.

Ontario has not yet implemented any specific measures in the northwest.

To see the original post and stay abreast of northwestern Ontario wildfire developments, follow this link to the CBC Thunder Bay website.

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