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Forest fire causes evacuation of Red Lake Ontario, Highway 105 expected to be compromised by afternoon

Aug 11, 2020 10:13AM ● By Editor
Water bombers can be seen in the Red Lake Area assisting with an active forest fire that has forced an evacuation from the community of about 4000 people. Photo: Nick Zook/Facebook

By Olivia Levesque · CBC News · Thunder Bay - August 11, 2020 

Red Lake, Ont. municipal officials are urging residents to evacuate the community immediately as a nearby forest fire, south of the township, rages on.

As of Tuesday morning, municipal officials said residents should evacuate as soon as possible, as Highway 105, a main passage in the community is expected to be compromised by the fire by noon.

Early discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) indicate that the community's "main hydro and main corridor will be compromised by noon central time, which means no one will be in or out of the community except for air traffic," said Mayor Fred Mota in an interview with CBC.

The municipality, which is home to over 4,000 people, and is located about 500 km northwest of Thunder Bay, issued an initial evacuation order around 9:30 p.m. Monday night, urging vulnerable people to evacuate immediately. A state of emergency in conjunction with the MNRF was also declared, according to the mayor.

"There's still people out, the gas stations were filled, people just wanted to get out and be safe, and that was our message to our residents," said Mota, who was still in Red Lake as of Tuesday morning.

Residents have been asked to register for temporary shelter at the township office in Ear Falls Ont., or at the Dryden Ont., recreation arena. Mota said the municipality is also in discussion with the City of Thunder Bay about hosting evacuees.

"We are waiting for further direction from the Emergency Management Team as to where host communities may be, we haven't heard anything yet about being out of province, for people going to Winnipeg," said Mota.

Fire reported to be 420 hectares in size

The fire, called Red Lake 49, was first reported by Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services on Monday. At the time, the blaze was reported to be approximately five hectares in size, with five water bombers active in the area to assist with the efforts.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire is reported to be 420 hectares in size, according to the MNRF.

"It just kept growing due to the winds that we were experiencing here in Red Lake and there were large gusts this morning. There's predictions of the same type of wind behaviour, which is burning at approximately a kilometre per hour," said Mota.

Ministry firefighters and volunteer firefighters continue to battle the blaze.

To read the original story and see related articles, follow this link to the CBC Thunder Bay website.