MNRF water bomber on a sortie over northern Ontario. (Ryan McGilchrist) CC BY-SA MNRF water bomber on a sortie over northern Ontario. (Ryan McGilchrist) CC BY-SA

Forest fires are threatening the northern Ontario community of Temagami 100 kilometres north of North Bay, forcing the evacuation of 20 homes and local provincial parks.

The fire “kind of blew up fast,” acting Temagami mayor Dan O’Mara told CBC. “The situation with the fire itself looked good [Sunday] night,” the mayor said, but the concern earlier this week was gauging which way the wind would take the flames.

O’Mara and Temagami mayor Lorie Hunter declared a state of emergency in the town after the blaze began on Sunday, a declaration that remains in place today. The town council has also opened local community centres to anyone seeking shelter or an escape from the haze and smoke that has blanketed the town.

MNRF data shows extent of active wildfires burning near Temagami.

Newly minted Natural Resources Minister Jeff Yurek issued a statement Tuesday saying fire and emergency crews were working closely with the Ontario Provincial Police and local municipal and community leaders to make sure almost two dozen homes “dangerously close” to the fire burning two kilometres southwest of Temagami are protected.

“We have requested and received support from Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta,” Yurek said. “I want to thank the Premiers of these provinces for helping Ontario in our time of need by sending aircraft and fire rangers to help fight these fires and a significant number of other active fires.”

Shayne McCool, MNRF's fire information officer, told CBC 85 additional firefighters had been supplied from BC and Alberta to fight more than 70 active blazes in the area covering an area more than 12,000 hectares in size. These firefighters join others from Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan aleady on scene. 

The Ministry has deployed water bombers to the region, warning residents on Twitter to stay clear of the bombers and other fire suppression aircraft when operating for their safety and the safety of crew members.

One hundred-plus fires burning across Ontario

As of Thursday morning, 107 forest fires were burning across the province, most in northwest Ontario near Kenora and increasingly in and around Sudbury, Elliot Lake and Temagami. Sudbury locals posted images on Twitter of car windshields covered in ash. Some fires have reached as far south as Lake Simcoe in Kawartha Lakes. Large swaths of the province, meanwhile, stretching from around Algonquin Park north to the shores of James Bay, have a Forest Fire Danger Rating of ‘High’ to ‘Extreme.’

Of the more than 100 fires actively burning, less than five are currently believed to have been set by humans. According to MNRF, almost are were caused by lightning strikes. And while many are being observed by fire officials or are currently “Being Held”, several dozen fires, tens of thousands of hectares in total size, are listed as “Not Under Control.”

Follow MNRF’s Aviation, Forest Fire & Emergency Services department on Twitter for more updates.

Updated Friday, July 13 at 10:52 EST.

Andrew Reeves is the Editor-in-Chief of Alternatives Journal. Overrun, his book about Asian carp in North America, will be published in Spring 2019 by ECW Press. His work has also appeared in the Globe & MailSpacing and Corporate Knights. Follow him on Twitter.

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