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Ontario imposes industrial restrictions, B.C. declares state of emergency over wildfires

Last Updated Jul 21, 2021 at 8:43 am EDT

BC Wildfire Service continues to monitor the Carrol Creek wildfire near Golden. BC Wildfire Service

Ontario imposed new restrictions on mining, rail, construction and transportation industries in the province’s northwest on Tuesday to reduce the likelihood of human-caused wildfires.

The move came as 107 active wildfires burn in the region, with 32 of those not under control.

The restrictions are aimed at high-risk operations that could cause sparks and ignite fires. Certain specific drilling operations, using heavy machinery with rubber tires and no chains, and rail production grinding are among the activities being restricted.

Greg Rickford, the minister of northern development, mines, natural resources and forestry, said the new measures will help the province’s firefighting efforts.

“To continue to protect public safety, it is necessary to increase precautionary measures in the Northwest as the fire situation there continues to escalate,” he said in a statement.

“We appreciate the ongoing co-operation of our industry partners and the continued support to the community.”

The restrictions have been imposed under an emergency order currently in place for the northwest and will come into effect on Tuesday.

The wildfires in the northwest have led to evacuations from three First Nations communities — Poplar Hill First Nation, Deer Lake First Nation and Pikangikum First Nation — with more than 2,455 people going to communities such as Sudbury, Timmins, Thunder Bay and Cornwall.

The province said the wildfire hazard is particularly high in the southern Nipigon and Thunder Bay districts as well as in some parts of the Red Lake district.

The fire situation is better in the province’s northeast region, where a total of 14 fires are currently active. No evacuations have occurred in the northeast.

Crews from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Wisconsin and Mexico are helping Ontario firefighters battle the blazes.

The northern fires are also having an impact on southern Ontario, where Environment Canada has issued special air quality advisories due to smoke blowing from the northwest.

The advisories for southern Ontario, as well as southern Quebec, were issued late Monday afternoon and include the cities of Toronto and Ottawa. The weather agency warned that smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility.

The advisories further warn that high levels of air pollution due to smoke are possible. Environment Canada said people may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath.

The agency said conditions were expected to improve Tuesday with the passage of a cold front.

B.C. declares state of emergency over growing wildfire threat

A provincial state of emergency goes into effect in British Columbia today over the growing wildfire threat.

B.C.’s public safety minister says it will help the province prepare for potential mass evacuations and help secure accommodation that might be needed by evacuees.

Mike Farnworth says he made the decision to declare the emergency based on information from officials that weather conditions will lead to more severe fire behaviour, and the potential for more evacuations.

Farnworth says he wants to assure B.C. residents that the province is deploying all available personnel and equipment to fight nearly 300 fires burning across the province.

More than three-thousand firefighters and support staff are battling the blazes.

Some have come from Alberta, New Brunswick and Quebec, while about 100 firefighters are set to arrive from Mexico on Saturday.

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