Forest fire closes portion of Highway 631 in northern Ontario, fire bans in effect

The Canadian Press
Forest fire closes portion of Highway 631 in northern Ontario, fire bans in effect

Ontario Provincial Police say a highway between the northern communities of White River and Hornepayne is closed due to a forest fire causing “extremely dangerous conditions” in the area. 

Police have posted photos online showing heavy black smoke alongside Highway 631. Conditions had improved enough for the highway to reopen at 11 a.m. Tuesday, said OPP Const. Ashley Nickle, but changing winds around 2 p.m. caused zero visibility, causing another closure.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said there is a wildfire burning 5.5 kilometres west of White River that is not under control. 

It said there’s another forest fire burning north of Highway 17, in the Kakakiwibik Esker Conservation Reserve, that is not under control. Another fire near Chapleau, Ont., is being held.

Several communities, including White River, Hornepayne, Chapleau and the city of Elliot Lake, have issued fire bans. 

No evacuation orders have yet been issued for nearby municipalities, said Kyle Hayward, a ministry spokesperson, adding that fires deemed an immediate threat will be responded to “as quickly as possible to minimize damages and disruption.”

This year’s Ontario wildfire season, which runs from April until October, has so far seen more than 138 square kilometres burned, compared to 23.8 square kilometres by this time last year, said Hayward. 

“So far in May we have experienced average seasonal temperatures and cyclical periods of precipitation allowing for a relatively slow start to the season,” said Hayward. “The past weekend’s temperature increase and consistent dry windy days have led to an influx of fires for the first time this season.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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