A fire threatening a northern Ontario town is creeping closer and is still classified as “out of control.”
Red Lake Fire 49 is now confirmed as 552 hectares after re-mapping overnight. However, it’s now only about two kilometres away from the town, which is under evacuation orders.
Red Lake Mayor Fred Mota said more than 20 ground crews, six water bombers and 12 helicopters were involved in fighting the fire, which was three kilometres away on Wednesday.
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.
“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.”
A spokesperson from Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said the fire is the province’s highest priority.
So far, there have been more than 800 water drops, or about five million litres, dropped on the fire, they added.
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.”
— With files from Joe Scarpelli and Will Reimer