Red Lake fire grows to 750 hectares as residents urged to leave

Click to play video 'Red Lake Fire Evacuations begin' Red Lake Fire Evacuations begin
WATCH: Evacuations begin in Red Lake after a fire sparked in Northern Ontario near the townsite earlier this week.

Evacuations from Red Lake in northern Ontario continued Tuesday and overnight after a nearby fire that sparked Monday afternoon, dubbed Red Lake Fire 49, grew to more than 750 hectares.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the fire is still classified as “out of control.”

“The fire is approximately three kilometres south of the Red Lake townsite and three kilometres west of Hwy. 105,” and moving eastward, they said.

Read more: Red Lake residents ordered to evacuate area as forest fire burns nearby

“Air attack, Initial Attack FireRangers and heavy equipment worked throughout the day to slow the fire’s progress.”

Red Lake Mayor Fred Mota said Wednesday everyone needs to evacuate. He asked residents to proceed to the airport and said anyone who needs help evacuating can call 807-727-7106.

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“We are experiencing heavy smoke conditions today and we understand this will continue throughout the day as the fire is in very close proximity to Red Lake.

“We have an airplane on standby today to remove residents immediately.”
If people don’t head to the airport before the afternoon, they can’t guarantee transport, he added.
The latest fire map of Red Lake Fire 49 from the FireFringe app.
The latest fire map of Red Lake Fire 49 from the FireFringe app.
Mota says over 20 ground crews, six water bombers and 12 helicopters were involved in fighting the fire, which as of Wednesday afternoon was still out of control.A spokesperson for the province of Manitoba said one air tanker group — which includes two water bombers and one Bird Dog aircraft — was deployed to the area, while additional water bombers stationed in Manitoba have been assisting as needed.“It was so fast and ferocious,” said Janalee Jodouin, a resident of Madsen who was escorted by police back to her home to quickly retrieve some medication for her dog.“It was shocking to see our whole … Highway 618 is destroyed. We just got new fibre optic lines to get internet for the first time in Madsen. Those are all on fire, hydro poles on fire. It was shocking and sad.”

Read more: Northern Ontario First Nation begins to evacuate some residents due to forest fires

Standing next to her father, Rachel Dela Cruz, 14, described evacuating their home in the Red Lake area late Monday night and driving three hours to Ear Falls — a trip that would normally take 45 minutes.“I was really nervous. I couldn’t figure out what to take. I think I have like three bags but there’s a lot of stuff at home,” said Dela Cruz, adding they spent the night in their vehicle in a parking lot before continuing on the next day.Roger Nesbitt, CAO for the Municipality of Dryden, said it had been a “considerable amount of work” coordinating registration and reception for evacuees.“We’ve had over 400 evacuees from the Red Lake area registered here in Dryden,” Nesbitt said.“Some of them have moved on to other communities. I know many of our commercial lodging, our hotels, are very full here in Dryden, and we’ve been able to accommodate some of those evacuees here at the arena.”Meanwhile, Mota says his main concern right now is for those who have chosen to stay behind.“We’re currently doing door-knocking to get the vulnerable people who still remain — there’s a few of them; we’re trying to convince them to leave the community,” Mota said.“We really want everyone to be safe and evacuate the area until we get control of the fire.”Mota says there is contact information on the municipality’s website and on Facebook so anyone with mobility issues or other challenges can ask for help and someone will assist them.He estimates 3,800 have so far evacuated the community, while between 3 and 500 still remain.A statement posted by the municipality of Red Lake said people shouldn’t fear evacuating due to COVID-19.“Please be advised that designated evacuation centres are required to take all necessary precautions, in this regard. You, as an evacuee, can protect yourself by continuing to wear a mask in public areas, practising diligent hand hygiene, and making efforts to physically distance.”

Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services told the Kenora Miner & News Wednesday said the cause of the fire is still being investigated.

The OPP said they are not investigating an arson in the area.