Kirkland Lake, Ont. on alert as forest fires doused
Published Thursday, May 24, 2012 9:08PM EDT
The northern Ontario town of Kirkland Lake remains on high alert although much of a forest fire that has threatened residents has been doused.
Images from infrared cameras showed that hot spots remain, and Ministry of Natural Resources spokesperson Carin Glassford warned that Kirkland Lake 8 fire is not yet deemed extinguished as winds can reignite fuel.
"If you were to fly over it, it's not like huge flames burning, but that does not mean that the hazard is reduced or that we're out of a problem situation," she said.
Earlier, there were fears the fires would worsen due to strengthening winds and dry conditions.
"There's certainly an issue of smoke, potential of fire and residents in the community of Kirkland Lake are on standby in the event they need to evacuate," Glassford said.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the fire stretches for more than 2,750 hectares and is burning three kilometres north of the town, which has a population of more than 8,000. Authorities have said they will evacuate the area if the blaze comes to within one kilometre of the town.
Kirkland Lake Mayor Bill Enouy said the fire would be "a bigger problem" if winds were blowing from the northwest because "it starts blowing the front towards the community."
Although the winds are now blowing from the southwest, firefighters remain on hand.
"The message is don't panic but be prepared," the mayor said.
Residents have been advised to prepare three days' worth of clothing, as well as medication, money, food and water in the event of an evacuation order. Three hundred campsites and cottages have already been cleared.
Two water bombers from Newfoundland and two from Manitoba are helping fight the fire, which started at Kirkland Lake Gold, a mining company that has since been shut down.
Premier Dalton McGuinty thanked firefighters and emergency workers Thursday for their continued service.
"Our North is beautiful, but it can also be dangerous. The spring forest fires that have threatened northern towns are a fresh reminder of that," McGuinty said in a statement. "But Northerners are tough, resilient and determined, and I know they'll get through these challenges, too."
Meanwhile, the Timmins 9 fire still covers an area of 21,000 hectares, with water bombers tackling the north end of the fire.
The fire is expected to grow, and there is concern that shifting winds will cause it to spread east.
The Ontario Provincial Police is on standby to clear people out, and sprinklers are being set up around cottages.
If a state of emergency is declared, the MNR says some residents could be relocated to North Bay or Sault Ste. Marie.
Mattagami First Nation has declared an emergency, and 118 residents were evacuated to Kapuskasing.
There are currently 45 forest fires in Ontario, 43 of them in the northeast region.
With files from The Canadian Press