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Forest fires prompt evacuations in NE Ontario

Last Updated Jul 9, 2018 at 7:15 pm EST

Ontario has put a large swath of homes on evacuation notice and has called for help from other provinces as forest fires rage near the Quebec border.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry placed residents near Temagami, Ont., on notice Monday morning after 20 homes were evacuated Sunday as a fire approached the town along with other fires that have begun in the area.

“Fire North Bay 69,” as it’s known, is threatening the town, said ministry spokeswoman Jolanta Kowalski.

As of Monday morning, there are 70 forest fires in the province’s northeast region with 33 of them not yet under control, she said.

“There’s high temperatures, dry conditions and a lot of thunderstorms,” Kowalski said, making ideal conditions for the start and spread of fires.

“The risk of wildland fires across most of northern Ontario is high and it’s especially challenging in the northeast right now because there are so many fires.”

She said the ministry will be getting reinforcements from other provinces to join the 400 firefighters currently working the northeast quadrant of the province.

Numerous water bombers are operating during daylight hours in an effort to stop or control the spread of the fires, she said.

It has been a bad year for forest fires in Ontario with 504 recorded to date compared to 143 this time last year, according to the ministry’s data.

The area burned is up significantly as well, with 61,000 hectares damaged due to fire compared to 42,000 hectares last year, Kowalski said.

In Temagami, tensions are high, said Brian Koski, a local councillor and the head of the municipality’s emergency management committee.

“It’s very close to the town,” Koski said.

Smoke blanketed the area on Sunday, which led to one resident suffering an asthma attack, Koski said, but no one else has been injured.

There are several larger fires to the south of the town, he said. And small blazes are popping up and spreading quickly.

Koski spent part of Sunday driving around and helping residents clear out when he stopped by Karol Lake.

“There was not even a puff of smoke,” he said. “By 2 p.m. there was a puff of smoke. And by 4 p.m. it was a raging fire.”