Nearly one month after it was sparked, and some 27,000 burned hectares later, the North Bay 72 forest fire is now classified as “being held.”
Crews believe the perimeter of the fire is now under control, Shayne McCool, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, told CBC News on Tuesday morning.
“That’s a very good sign,” McCool said. “Folks in that area, there will be some changes in the near future, but for today, that fire’s now being held and crews have made some excellent progress in containing it.”
A handful of smaller fires are still burning out of control within what the ministry calls the Lady Evelyn cluster, about 30 kilometres west of Temiskaming Shores.
“We have been monitoring other fires consistently over the last number of weeks. We’ve been utilizing helicopter bucketing on those fires for areas that were more active,” said McCool.
“A lot of our focus, for resources anyway, was being put into the North Bay 72 fire, mainly because it was the one that was impacting folks, and smoke conditions were the main factor there,” he added.
As of Monday night, the ministry said there were 44 active forest fires across the northeast region and 18 of them were not yet under control.
But McCool said the progress on North Bay 72 means more resources will be diverted to work on the remaining fires.
“As we have more resources available to us, we’ll start putting people on those fires as well to make sure they’re getting the support they need to extinguish those,” he explained.
Crews also continue to make progress on Parry Sound 33, the 11,000-hectare fire burning between Sudbury and Parry Sound.
In a release late Tuesday afternoon, the ministry stated that all control lines established around Parry Sound 33 since Sunday had held firm.
“We’ve seen only minimal growth occur on that fire,” said McCool. “However, there are still fuels [trees and bush] underneath the canopy that are quite dry, so we are watching that situation closely.”
Hundreds of people still haven’t been allowed to return to their homes or cottages due to evacuation orders and travel restrictions.
But the Municipality of Killarney’s emergency manager, Jim Rook, told CBC News hopes for good news from a meeting with ministry officials when they meet Wednesday.
Rook said some residents may be able to return this week.
“Hartley Bay Road may be allowed to be open by Friday — and I use the word may, maybe — and on Friday, we’ll probably make a decision on the water access properties, depending on fire conditions and all that kind of stuff.”
Rook said approximately 300 properties are currently affected by waterway travel restrictions, while another 70 or so have been evacuated due to the closure of Hartley Bay Road.
A spokeswoman for Henvey Inlet First Nation said yesterday there’s still no word when around 200 people in that community will be allowed to go home.
McCool said on Tuesday that he couldn’t give a timeline for when any of the evacuation orders or travel restrictions will be lifted.
“We understand people’s lives have been impacted by these orders, so the quicker we can do the work we need to do to bring life back to normal for those folks, we will do that and try to get folks back in there as soon as safely possible,” said McCool.
Hot temperatures are expected to continue this week, but so is high humidity.