More air quality alerts issued as smoke, over 140 forest fires plague northwestern Ontario

Air quality statements to more northwestern Ontario communities have been issued by Environment Canada as they deal with smoke and poor visibility due to over 140 forest fires burning Monday in the region as well as in Manitoba.

The statements affect the Geraldton, Manitouwadge, Hornepayne, Nipigon, Marathon, Pickle Lake, Red Lake, Ear Falls, Pikangikum, and Sioux Lookout areas.

“Smoke plumes from active fires in northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba will continue, resulting in poor air quality,” Environment Canada said. “Low visibilities can also be expected, particularly in areas closer to the fires.”

Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) said 14 new fires had been discovered by early Saturday evening. The largest of them, Dryden 91, was three hectares, burning about five kilometres south of Savant Lake and not under control.

3 First Nations evacuated

Elsewhere in the region, AFFES said fire crews continue suppression efforts on other large fires, including the first three that have been evacuated:

  • Red Lake 65, about 17,500 hectares and burning six kilometres northwest of Poplar Hill First Nation.
  • Red Lake 51, about 51,900 hectares and burning about 24 kilometres west of Deer Lake First Nation.
  • Sioux Lookout 60, about 1,400 hectares and burning about eight kilometres west of Cat Lake First Nation.
  • Red Lake 77, about 23,400 hectares, 33 kilometres west of Red Lake, not under control.
  • Kenora 51, about 146,500 hectares, in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, not under control.

In a joint statement Monday morning, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry Greg Rickford and Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the province is “ready to provide all necessary additional support” to firefighting efforts in the region.

“We are working closely with the federal government, which is responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of First Nation communities on reserve,” the statement reads. “The province also continues to collaborate closely with affected First Nation communities, participating municipalities, the federal government, and the NGO sector to ensure that all necessary resources are deployed.”

Province’s emergency order in effect

A restricted fire zone remains in effect in the Kenora, Fort Frances, Dryden and Thunder Bay districts, and portions of the Sioux Lookout, Red Lake and Nipigon districts. Outdoor burning is prohibited in those areas.

The province has also issued an emergency order for northwestern Ontario, which allows it to take special measures “to ensure the safety of people and the protection of critical property.”

The restrictions apply to certain industrial operations that have the potential to cause sparks and start fires. A complete list of affected operations is available on Ontario’s forest fire information page.

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