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Firefighters work to contain flames in northwestern Ontario

Raging fire captured near Pickle Lake
Raging fire captured near Pickle Lake

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer

June 29, 2011 — Residents from Mishkeegogamang First Nation are eager to return home. Hundreds of firefighters are working to contain the flames.

Firefighters working around the clock to contain the flames
Firefighters working around the clock to contain the flames

Crews have been working around the clock to try and stop a wildfire from reaching the Mishkeegogomang First Nations near Pickle Lake.

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources said the fire grew to about 66,000 hectares in size and is still not officially under control. With hundreds of firefighters attacking the flames however, evacuees could return home as early as Friday if the air quality continues to improve.

Evacuations began in northwestern Ontario last Friday after smoke began to spread across the region. Officials say around 500 residents consist of elders, young children and their parents, as well as people with breathing problems.

Evacuees were transported to the Sioux Lookout, Ignace and Greenstone towns where they wait for news about returning home.

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

Winds caused the fire to grow quickly, and pushed it near the Pickle Lake community, where crews have been hoping for rain to help with the emergency response.

“Rain is obviously beneficial in slowing down the rate of spread of the fire and reducing the fire behaviour, so that it's safe to put ground crews in along the fire line,” said Barry Graham, a fire behaviour analyst stationed at the Pickle Lake Attack Base.

Close to 25 mm of rain fell in the Pickle Lake area through Tuesday morning. While that wasn't enough rain to help contain the fires completely, officials say firefighters are making progress.

According to Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources, there are currently less than half the number of active forest fires in Ontario in comparison to this same time last year. Hectares affected however are about 77,000, which is well ahead of the 10-year average.

Ontario Forest Fires
Last Year - 201064013,254
10 Year Average (mean)37343,389

With files from Andrea Stockton and Lisa Varano

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