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Wabaseemoong First Nation stands by for potential evacuation

Kenora fire #51 is still 20 kilometres away but producing a lot of smoke
Kenora fire 51
Kenora fire # 51 has burned over 188,000 hectares as of Aug. 2, 2021 (AFFES / Twitter)

KENORA, Ont. — Residents of Wabaseemoong First Nation, 120 km northwest of Kenora, have been advised to prepare for possible evacuation because of a forest fire burning nearby.

In a social media post Sunday, Chief Waylon Scott said the community is now "officially on standby."

Citing information from the the province's Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services agency, Scott said Kenora fire # 51 has the potential to jump across Umfreville Lake, which is just north of the First Nation.

"Our hope is that we don't need to do a full scale evacuation...We are receiving updates hourly," he wrote.

Chief Scott attached an AFFES memo from the Kenora office to his post, which indicated that neither fire # 51 nor a fire burning in eastern Manitoba threatens Wabaseemoong or Minaki at this time, "but smoke is spreading across the Kenora area which may affect communities if unfavourable weather conditions persist."

The memo stated that vulnerable community members with health conditions should make preparations to leave in the event this becomes necessary, and that all residents should prepare to evacuate if the fire crosses Umfreville Lake.

"The situation may change rapidly," it said, while advising residents to keep informed and to maintain contact. 

An AFFES spokesperson told TBNewswatch on Monday afternoon that fire # 51 has burned 188,000 hectares, about 17,000 hectares more than was reported on Sunday evening.

It is approximately 20 kilometres north of Wabaseemoong.

Helicopters with buckets, and waterbombing planes are being used to slow its spread.

Ignition crews hope to bring the fire to natural boundaries, and bulldozer lines will be used to further contain the fire.

Close to 190 firefighters from outside Ontario including Alberta, Quebec, the maritime provinces, Wisconsin, Mexico and Australia are currently assisting in the battle against 110 fires in Northwestern Ontario, of which 17 are not under control.