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Forest fire in northeastern Ontario threatens Trans Canada Highway

Last Updated Jul 30, 2018 at 12:51 pm EDT

An aerial view taken over the Parry Sound 33 fire is shown in this handout image. The blaze, known as Parry Sound 33, sprung up on July 18. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout/AFFES Ignition/Response Specialist-Dan Leonard

Provincial officials say a wildfire in the heart of Ontario cottage country that started more than a week ago has now crossed a set of railway tracks and is inching closer to a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Natural Resources says the fire, known as Parry Sound 33, is just six kilometres away from a portion of Highway 69.

Shayne McCool says the fire in northeastern Ontario, which has now grown to more than 82 square kilometres, crossed a stretch of CN Rail tracks on Sunday and firefighters are working at beating it back.

It’s been a landmark year for forest fires in Ontario, which McCool says has been egged on by a lack of rain and lots of lightning.

There have been 831 wildfires this year so far, compared to an annual average of 511 over the past 10 years.

The ministry says there are currently 39 active fires in northeastern Ontario and more than 100 in the northwest region. Of those, 44 fires are still raging out of control.

Though some of the fires in northwestern Ontario are significantly larger than Parry Sound 33, a ministry spokesman in the region said they’re less pressing.

“In the northeast, those fires are happening right in the middle of cottage country,” Chris Marchand said. “There are a lot of values, a lot of lives right in the midst of a force of nature … as opposed to up here, where a good 50 to 70 per cent of the fires we see, we can just allow them to burn freely on the landscape.”

He said some of the firefighters who typically work in northwestern Ontario have been diverted down to cottage country.