Loading articles...

Residents of northern Ontario community return home as forest fires keep burning

Last Updated Jul 13, 2018 at 4:40 pm EST

Residents of a northeastern Ontario community affected by forest fires are back in the homes they were forced to leave earlier this week.

While a mandatory evacuation order has been lifted in Temagami, Ont., firefighters in the area were still battling 25 active fires Friday afternoon, said Shayne McCool, fire information officer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Even though they’re back in their homes, some residents were still worried by the situation.

“It is not only a fire, it’s a forest fire so it won’t be done any time soon,” said Stephanie Wagner, who owns the Temagami Shores Inn & Resort with her husband.

Wagner said approximately 30 people had to evacuate the resort, where she lives with her husband and their son, on Sunday evening.

“We were crying and leaving everything behind because our first priority was safety for our staff and our guests,” she said.

“We drove into town and waited for a few hours but the smoke was so heavy that we had to stay at our friends’ house.”

They were able to go back to their property on Wednesday evening and are now hosting some of the pilots and staff battling the forest fires in the area, Wagner said.

Despite the fires, Wagner said numerous guests are starting to gather at the resort for a wedding on Saturday.

“The situation is not ideal, but the bride and groom are ready to rock.”

Mayor Lorie Hunter said that depending on the force of the wind, the smoke and the fire can still be seen in parts of the community.

“The residents are cautious because the situation could change at any moment and they could be asked to leave again,” Hunter said.

A number of water bombers are operating during the day to control the fires, which creates smoke, said Wagner.

“The smoke kept changing colours because they brought in nine different water bombers, so every time the water got dumped, it would puff up different colours.”

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

On Friday afternoon, there were 60 active fires in northeastern Ontario and 22 of them were not yet under control, said McCool.

“The situation is changing quickly because we continue to find new fires,” he said.

“Our firefighters have made excellent progress on this and the fires have not spread out in recent days,” McCool said.

A risk of thunderstorms Friday evening could spark more lightning fires and Environment Canada warned of elevated pollution levels in the area.

Almost 200 firefighters from across Canada have joined the 400 firefighters already working on the ground in Ontario’s northeast.