May 28, 2012 — Wet weather and calmer winds are helping firefighters battle the widespread forest fires across northern Ontario. A state of emergency has now been lifted in Timmins.
It was exactly the kind of weather fire fighters and residents of Timmins, Ontario had been waiting for.
Rain fell in the city over the weekend. The precipitation, combined with calmer winds and cloud cover, helped douse the flames and clear the smoke from the air.
A state of emergency that was issued for Timmins last week has now been lifted.
On Saturday there were 46 active fires throughout Ontario. That number dropped to 30 the next day.
The forecast this week is also looking favourable and should allow for more resources to deploy around major fires. 40 crews from the northwest have re-deployed to the northeast to assist with the fire fighting effort. The fireline has received help from several other provinces across Canada. Aircraft and personnel have been flown in from British Columbia, Manitoba and Newfoundland.
Although the rain over the weekend brought the fire hazard to minimal levels in most places, firefighters say that the remaining wide swathes of charred and smouldering terrain are still dangerous.
Officials say Highway 144 and Highway 101 remain closed to traffic.
It will still be several weeks until the larger fires are completely under control.
Last week, the biggest forest fire in the northeast, Timmins 9, prompted a state of emergency.
On Saturday crews were able to map the monstrous fire at 39,518 hectares. That's 400 km squared or almost two-thirds the size of Toronto.
On the weekend the fire grew to within 30-35 km of Timmins, but posed no immediate threat to the city.
"I want to emphasis, that with the aggressive suppression effort, the City of Timmins is in no imminent danger," said Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren.
Last week, officials advised residents to keep their windows closed due to the heavy smoke. There was concern that the ash and smoke could become a problem for the elderly, or people with breathing issues like asthma.
This week, the strong winds have diminished and a directional shift will help keep smoke away from the city.
Another fire, about 140 km southeast of Timmins, prompted the evacuation of about 800 residents in Kirkland Lake last week. The fire no longer poses a threat to the community, but remains listed as "not under control" by the Kirkland Lake Community Group.
The average amount of fires a year in Ontario is 187, but in 2012 there has already been 370. The average amount of hectares burnt is 5,319, but presently that number is now over 49,577.
Travellers are being asked to call the MTO at 1-800-268-4686 to confirm highway information prior to travelling.
For more information on the fire situation, you can contact the City of Timmins Forest Fire Information Line at: 705-360-8720 and the Town of Kirkland Lake Emergency Information: 705-567-9365 ext. 221
With files from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources