Crews battle dozens of forest fires in northern Ontario
Gabriele Roy, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, July 14, 2018 10:34AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 14, 2018 7:36PM EDT
TORONTO -- The number of forest fires raging in northeastern Ontario is down, but officials say the battle isn't over yet.
There were 48 active fires in the region as of Saturday afternoon, compared to 70 on Monday, said Shayne McCool, fire information officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
"Firefighters have made great progress over the past couple of days," said McCool. But he noted that 21 fires are not yet under control.
On Friday evening, officials issued an order restricting access to an area of Temagami, Ont., where there were public safety hazards due to the fires.
Within the area, no camping, day trips or other recreational activities are permitted. Road blocks have been set up to notify the public of the closure.
Over the past week, residents of 20 homes in Temagami had to leave their houses due to the forest fires, but have since been able to return.
"The residents are cautious because the situation could change at any moment and they could be asked to leave again," Temagami Mayor Lorie Hunter said Friday.
Officials with Ontario Parks said seven parks remained shuttered on Saturday due to the fires.
And a risk of thunderstorms in northern Ontario over the weekend could spark more fires, according to Environment Canada.
"We are still expecting to find some lightning fires, but that number continues to drop," McCool said, noting that people should stay away from water bombers to ensure their safety.
Almost 200 firefighters from across Canada have joined the 400 firefighters already working on the ground in Ontario's northeast amid a spike in forest fires this year.
As of Saturday, 598 forest fires had sparked in Ontario, compared to a total of 152 in 2017, according to government data. Over the past decade, the average number of fires has been about 390.
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is advising the public of #smoke drifting into Northeastern #Ontario from #fires burning in Ontario. Smoky conditions will likely exist until weather patterns change. Smoke-related health concerns? TeleHealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000 pic.twitter.com/wwlYa4BvKb— ONForestFires (@ONforestfires) July 13, 2018