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More fire evacuees in northwestern Ontario return home


Officials working on a plan to enable evacuees to return home
Officials working on a plan to enable evacuees to return home

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

July 29, 2011 — Hundreds of residents have returned home as firefighters continue to battle forest fires in northwestern Ontario.

Extreme fire levels across northern Ontario this year
Extreme fire levels across northern Ontario this year

A recent spell of hot and dry conditions pushed fire levels to extreme and forced many residents from their homes over the past couple of months.

Officials say about 150 members of the Mishkeegogamang First Nation have returned home. On Thursday, over 300 residents of Cat Lake and Sandy Lake were cleared to go home as well. Although the number of evacuees are dropping, there are still thousands waiting for the smoke to clear.

Over 100 fires continue to burn in the region and more than 2,000 firefighters are working to battle the flames.

Thick smoke has blanketed much of the northwest, creating significant health concerns for children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Smoke can continue to affect the region if conditions remain dry.

Crews rely on water bombers to fight fires
Crews rely on water bombers to fight fires

“It all depends on the weather - which way the wind is blowing,” says Debbie MacLean, a fire information officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. “If the weather is fine, clear, sunny, dry and windy, then the fires come back to life and the ones that are already burning flare up, and then we have more smoke.”

Premier Dalton McGunity toured the fire ravaged region last Friday to ensure residents are receiving all of the assistance available. McGuinty says the fire situation has improved since his visit and is becoming less threatening thanks to cooler temperatures and cloudy periods.

Authorities continue to develop a plan to enable a relatively quick return. They're hoping the rest of the evacuees will be home by next Thursday.

While restrictions on open fires in the region are easing, the Ministry of Natural Resources are urging people to use extreme caution, especially with it being the August long weekend.

Ontario Forest Fires
YearFiresHectares
2010 to date80914,573
2011 to date618541,889

With files from Alexandra Pope

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