Huge forest fires raging in Northwest

Unusually dry conditions, unruly winds, and high temperatures are creating prime forest fire conditions in Northern Ontario, where a massive blaze caused the evacuation of a second community yesterday.
“We’re expecting a very long summer,” said Jeff Dicaire, fire information officer for the Wawa District near Lake Superior.
“Some of the veteran firefighters that I’ve talked to here said they’ve never seen it so dry—that’s after 25 years of fighting fires,” he added.
In the Wawa District, three separate forest fires blazed yesterday.
One covered more than 200 square km and forced 170 people from their homes in Caramat, a town about 400 km northeast of Thunder Bay, when it came within 12 km of the community.
“At the head of the fire, we can’t even tell where it is because it’s so smoky from the fuel it’s burning through,” Dicaire said. “It’s going out of control— we can’t get at it, we can’t get crews on it.”^On Sunday, more than 700 residents from the town of Kasabonika, a First Nations community about 600 km north of Thunder Bay, were evacuated to avoid the billowing smoke and encroaching flames of a 650-sq.- km blaze.
“The fire is really close to the community, no doubt about it,” said Bob Pinder, spokesman for the emergency response team in charge of the evacuation.
Pinder said efforts by fire crews were successful in keeping the massive blaze away from the town, which is on an island in Kasabonika Lake.
He added four other smaller fires—all less than 10 sq. km in size—are burning in Northwestern Ontario.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Natural Resources firefighters have ignited controlled burns to try to stop the spread of a massive fire burning on Sioux Lookout’s doorstep.
“We’re going to be aggressively attacking that fire [over the next few days],” Ministry of Natural Resources spokeswoman Deb MacLean told the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal yesterday.
She said fire managers have conducted “back burns over the last two days on Sioux Lookout #48 to try and burn the fire down to natural boundaries.”^This is being done so that if the wind shifts to the north as forecast, MacLean explained, there won’t be any trees left to burn as the fire moves south toward the community.
“We’ve been very fortunate [so far] that the wind has been blowing it away from the community,” she added.
The fire more than tripled in size Sunday, swelling to 220 sq. km, reportedly destroying two cabins. It is burning in an area of mixed forest about 10 km north of the community.
“There’s an underlying lack of moisture, there’s no doubt about it,” said MacLean, regarding the prime forest fire conditions in Northern Ontario. “It definitely has been a drying trend, almost to the point of drought.
“That, combined with the summer seasonal weather of thunderstorms and lightning strikes, comes up with multiple fire starts and erratic fire behaviour.”^In northeastern Manitoba, heavy smoke from fires has driven more than 260 people from two remote First Nations’ communities.
About 175 residents considered at risk—elders, infants, and those with chronic lung conditions—were airlifted from Red Sucker Lake as a precautionary move, said Cam King of the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters.
About 600 people in total live in Red Sucker Lake, about 530 km northeast of Winnipeg.
In northern Alberta, a weekend of cool temperatures, rain, and hard firefighting put a hammerlock on a blaze that had forced a twoday evacuation of Fort MacKay.
Firefighters in Arizona turned to bulldozers to try to stop a raging wildfire that destroyed more than 250 homes in a vacation community.
The blaze has charred more than 50 sq. km of pine forest on the mountain just north of Tucson and was only five percent contained, firefighters’ spokesman Gerry Engel said.
Officials said they appeared to have saved a University of Arizona observatory on top of Mount Lemmon.