More than 50 homes were evacuated in northeastern Ontario on Friday night due to raging forest fires.
The mandatory evacuation order was issued for the Key Harbour area and the municipality of Killarney south of the French River Provincial Park, after the fire more than quadrupled in size Friday to about 19 square kilometres, according to the Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“Everyone who was evacuated was evacuated by boat,” said ministry spokeswoman Isabelle Chenard.
The new fires were ignited by lightning strikes Friday, Chenard said, adding that it pushed the total number of blazes to at least 65 – 34 of which remain out of control.
“Our community is devastated at the impact of (the fire) Parry Sound 33,” said Jennifer Kivinen, co-president of the Key River Area Association, which represents a group of seasonal and permanent residents in northeastern Georgian Bay.
Kivinen said she is at her cottage on the north of the French River and can see the smoke and damage caused by the forest fires on the other side of the park.
“The impact is huge environmentally,” she said.
“It is extremely sad if we lose our cottage,” she added. “But I just want everyone to be safe.”
“(Key River) is a tight-knit community who has and will continue to assist each other whenever and wherever possible,” said Kivinen, mentioning that some people have opened their doors to evacuees.
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A section of the Trans-Canada Highway was forced to close on Friday due to dense smoke, according to the ministry.
“The minute that we don’t feel safe anymore we will leave the cottage,” Kivinen said. “We will play it by ear.”
Inhaling smoke can be quite dangerous, according to the government of Canada’s website. Fine particles in the smoke can penetrate deep into the lungs and can lead to serious health effects, particularly for small children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with lung and heart conditions.
There are currently dozens of aircraft – both planes and helicopters – being employed to battle the fires.
Ontario crews are also getting help on the ground from firefighters who have come from across Canada as well as the United States and Mexico to lend a hand.
The ministry is asking people to stay away from water bombers and to refrain from flying drones within nine kilometres of a forest fire.
Wind gusts were expected later Saturday, Chenard said, which could worsen the fire.
But she noted fire crews on the ground and in the air are working from the early afternoon until dark and are dropping water on the fire.