Crews battling rash of forest fires in northern Ontario, B.C.
An intense heat wave, windy conditions and a number of lightning-filled thunderstorms have led to the outbreak of forest fires in northern Ontario and parts of British Columbia, with officials warning that there could be more to come.
There are more than 90 active forest fires burning in northern Ontario, according to an interactive map from the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Of them, 23 are under control, 18 are not under control, six are contained and the rest are being observed.
Twenty-four new forest fires were started this weekend alone.
“Firefighters have made great progress over the past couple of days,” Shayne McCool, a fire information officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told The Canadian Press.
But with heat warnings and severe thunderstorm watches in place for large portions of northern Ontario, officials say there is the potential for more.
Ontario’s provincial government implemented a travel ban restricting access to the Temagami North Bay district on July 13 because of the risks to public safety posed by the fires. Camping, day trips, boating and ATVs are prohibited while the ban is in place.
Residents of 20 homes in Temagami, who were evacuated last week, have now been allowed back.
“The residents are cautious because the situation could change at any moment and they could be asked to leave again,” Lorie Hunter, the mayor of Temagami, told The Canadian Press.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has also declared some areas of northern Ontario a “Restricted Fire Zone,” which prohibits the use of open fires or the burning of brush or debris. Those who violate the order could face fines of up to $250,000 and three months in jail.
Hundreds of firefighters and other resources have travelled to Ontario from out of the province to help manage the situation.
“It was pretty scary the last couple of nights”
Meanwhile in British Columbia, where communities are still trying to rebuild a year after the province’s worst-ever wildfire season, 14 new wildfires were ignited across the province last week.
As in Ontario, high temperatures reaching into the mid-30s, dry conditions and lightning have contributed to the fire risk. Many are also believed to be caused by humans.
“The wind is a significant factor for us, if it picks up or it changes,” Dave Ferguson, the Kamloops Fire Platoon Capt., told CTV Vancouver.
Claire Allen, the B.C. Wildfire Service’s information officer, said that if necessary, the province will recall the firefighters and resources sent to help out in Ontario.
“We are seeing the fire danger rating increase across the province,” Allen told CTV Vancouver. Southern Vancouver Island and Kamloops are under an extreme fire danger warning.
An out of control fire east of Kamloops that has been burning since last Thursday forced nearby residents, including Charile Carusi, from their homes.
“It was pretty scary the last couple of nights,” he told CTV Vancouver on Saturday.
With files from The Canadian Press