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Firefighters, water bombers control Stanley blaze as it approaches properties

THUNDER BAY – A major brush fire near Stanley that was threatening an area cemetery and a number of properties has been knocked down.
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A Ministry of Natural Resources water bomber attacks a brush fire in the Stanley area on Monday evening. (Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – A major brush fire near Stanley that was threatening an area cemetery and a number of properties has been knocked down.

Nearly 40 firefighters from Oliver Paipoonge, Conmee and the Ministry of Natural Resources, along with two water bombers, spent more than two hours Monday evening working to control the blaze that broke out in the wooded area off Highway 11/17 near Pebblestone Road.

Oliver Paipoonge fire chief Mike Horan said the blaze came within 200 feet of the Stanley Hill Cemetery and within 150 metres of some of the nearby homes.

“We concentrated on the values in front of the fire, which were the cemetery and the four or five houses off Pebblestone,” Horan said shortly after 8 p.m., when he declared the fire under control.

“We’ve been successful with the (Ministry of Natural Resources) and we’ve also had mutual aid from Conmee come in with their bush firefighting equipment. We’ve got it pretty well knocked down. There are no values lost.”

Despite the fire being outside Thunder Bay limits, the large plumes of smoke rising into the air could be seen well within the city. Fire crews were alerted about the blaze shortly after 5:30 p.m.

Water bombers could be seen flying low over the highway as they made steady trips from the scene where they were making drops back to Lake Superior where they filled up with water.

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Horan said the fire had earlier been calculated at six hectares, though it had since grown and could have been as large as eight to 10 hectares. The Ministry of Natural Resources later confirmed the size to be closer to 15 hectares. 

The highway remained open as OPP officers directed traffic in the Pebblestone area as firefighters and the water bombers worked nearby.

Work is not over yet for the fire crews, despite the fire being knocked down. A helicopter remained overhead, surveying the scene.

“We have to mop up the hot spots and we’ll be there all night and there will be crews there tomorrow,” Horan said.

He added an investigation will be conducted to determine how and where the blaze started.