Forest fires, heavy smoke threatens northwest Ont.

Forest fires, heavy smoke threatens northwest Ont.

16 July 2011

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Canada — At least 77 fires are raging in northwestern Ontario forests on Saturday, prompting evacuations and drifting heavy smoke across the region.

The fires started earlier this week but have intensified between Thunder Bay and Manitoba.

Some First Nation communities have been evacuated already due to the smoke and are being housed in shelters.

Deb MacLean, a spokesperson for the Northwest Regional Forest Fire Centre in Dryden, Ont. told CTV News Channel on Saturday that though communities are not immediately affected by the flames, the air quality in the region is a major issue.

“A number of northern communities are concerned with the elderly, people who may have health problem, and very young children and that’s their first priority,” she said. “So if smoky conditions persist there may be further evacuations.”

The fires, many of which started from lightning strikes, have also caused power disruptions in the area due to power lines catching fire.

MacLean said more than 2,000 Ontario firefighters and support crew workers are on the ground, and approximately 360 firefighters have been sent from British Columbia as support.

Water bombers from Quebec and Alberta have also been dispatched to douse the flames.

Forecasters are predicting more sunny, hot weather instead of much-needed rain for the northern part of the affected region.

“Unfortunately, it’s not looking like there’s much relief,” MacLean said. “We have a little bit of rain forecasted for the southern portion of our region but that’s not where our problem is.”

She said she expects more lightning-caused fires to occur in the area.

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