Henvey Inlet First Nation residents forced to evacuate their homes nearly two weeks ago to flee the enormous Parry Sound 33 Forest Fire in northeastern Ontario are set to return home Wednesday.
Three weeks after the massive Parry Sound 33 forest fire was first detected, the fire is still ‘not under control,’ and now covers 11,362 hectares of land.
However, according to an update provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) on Tuesday evening, work on the perimeter and containment around the fire is “almost complete.” Officials say the perimeter of the fire is now 120 kilometres long, however, it has now grown in the last several days.
On Wednesday morning, Henvey Inlet First Nations Chief Wayne McQuabbie, along with council, rescinded the evacuation order, allowing residents to return to their homes.
“Based on the mapping showing all air support and fire crews activities on the ground, along with constant updates from command supervisors, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry officials, I felt comfortable knowing hose line has been run on sections of the eastern flank west of our community off Highway 69, and felt safe to allow community members to return home,” Chief McQuabbie said in a release.
Chief McQuabbie says while he is allowing residents to return home, the community will remain on a three-hour evacuation alert in case the fire begins to grow again.
One Henvey Inlet First Nation resident, Angele Dubois, says she is thankful there is a community to go back to.
“I’m just excited to get back to everyday life and grateful for the firefighters who ensured we had a community to go back to, but I’m still going to keep a go-bag by the door in case we have to leave,” she said in a release.
However, many others affected by Parry Sound 33 are still under an evacuation order.
According to the MNRF, the evacuation order issued by the Municipality of Killarney for residents in the Travers, Allen, Struthers, Kilpatrick, Bigwood (including Hartley Bay Road), a portion of Mowat, the Unsurveyed Area, 14 Mile Island, and French River Provincial Park areas still remains in effect.
Similarly, the evacuation alert issued by the Municipality of French River for residents in the Alban area, west of the high-powered hydro lines on Highway 64, is still in effect.
According to ministry officials, as of Tuesday evening, there were a total of 43 active forest fires in the northeast. Of the active fires, 14 were considered “not yet under control.” The other 29 were either “being held,” “under control,” or “being observed.”
On Tuesday, the MNRF says two new fires were found in the region, bringing the total number of forest fires in Ontario in 2018 to 971.