TORONTO — Significant rainfall has helped hold back a forest fire that was approaching an Ontario town earlier this week.
The status of the Red Lake 49 fire has officially changed from “out of control” to “being held” after 60 mm of precipitation fell Friday and another 30 mm overnight. More rain is expected to fall Saturday.
“That really is a game changer for the fire fighting effort, which up to this point has been able to hold that fire reasonably in place since its initial run towards the community earlier this week,” said Fire Information Officer Chris Marchand from Ontario’s Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services, on CTV News Channel.
“It’s certainly good news for the residents of Red Lake.”
On Thursday, the fire had barrelled down on the community, which is less than 100 km from the Manitoba border, and was as close as two kilometres from homes. Approximately 3,800 residents have fled the town since Monday when the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued an initial voluntary evacuation order. The town was urging remaining residents to leave on Thursday as the Ministry issued another order to restrict all access to Red Lake.
The fire began on Monday and had ballooned to 750 hectares (more than seven square kilometres) by Thursday. Since then it shrunk to about 550 hectares, according to the ministry website. While the size of the fire is relatively small compared to other significant Canadian forest fires, officials were concerned that if it remained out of control, it would reach the town of more than 4,000 people.
“The challenges with this fire is its proximity to property, to people’s lives, to infrastructure,” said Marchand. “This fire had its origins very close to all those things, so getting on it very quickly was important and it seems to have been stopped in place.”
There are currently more than 40 forest fires burning in Ontario, and while the season has already logged more fires than 2019 with 548, according to the ministry, it’s still below the 10-year average of 720 fires.
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