A township in eastern Ontario issued a precautionary evacuation notice for residents near an active wildfire on Monday, as water bombers and crews battled dozens of fires in the northern regions of the province.
The wildfire burning around Centennial Lake, about 150 kilometres west of Ottawa, was one of the 21 new fire starts in Ontario since Sunday, said fire adviser Shayne McCool, with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The latest data indicated wildfires this season across Ontario had burned through around 31,000 hectares, or 310 square kilometres, an area about half the size of the City of Toronto and 3,000 hectares more than the 10-year average by this point in the season, he said.
“We’re still in the very active portion of the fire season as well right now, so these numbers will continue to climb over the short term,” McCool said.
In a news release Monday, the township of Greater Madawaska listed four precautionary evacuation areas around the 48-hectare Centennial Lake fire, including a local tent and trailer park. It was not immediately clear how many residents were impacted, though the area is sparsely populated. A provincial water bomber was battling the fire amid favourable wind conditions and two other aircraft were expected to arrive shortly, the release said early Monday afternoon.
“We do have fire ranger crews working closely with the local fire department on that incident,” McCool said.
The township’s fire department said 50 people had already been evacuated, and 200 more could be removed from the area.
Meanwhile, officials in the northwest region of Ontario were keeping an eye on a wildfire north of the remote Cat Lake Fire Nation. Officials had assigned 12 crews and three helicopters to the roughly 9,300-hectare fire, which was burning away from the community.
The Ministry of Natural Resources had also restricted some travel around wildfires near Cochrane and White River, a community along the stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.
The number of wildfires recorded so far this season, which runs from April until the end of October, totalled 145 as of Sunday, three shy of the 10-year average for this time of year, McCool said.
“There’s not a lot of precipitation in the forecast. So we’ll be watching weather conditions closely to see how it impacts fire behaviour and new fires as well,” he said.
Cochrane’s Mayor Peter Politis said seven out of 10 fires in the area were not yet under control but the situation was “manageable at this point.”
“We will see where this goes over the next few days.”
Politis said there is a risk of more fires popping up in the area given the dry weather forecast, calling on residents to use extra caution.
“If you don’t absolutely have to go into the bush or into your camps and so on and so forth, then avoid that for now,” he said.
He said he is in regular contact with the first responders.
“We are continuing to monitor, do the little things that we can right now that in the event that there is a quick change we can react to real quickly,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2023.