Skip to main content

Northern Ont. town on the brink of evacuation as out-of-control wildfire grows

Forest fires in northern Ontario are on the rise, with the largest in the region shutting down a critical highway for the people of Hornepayne for a bit and bringing the community to the brink of evacuation.

Highway 631 first closed May 29 due to a wildfire causing extremely dangerous conditions. It reopened briefly Tuesday afternoon before reclosing due to poor visibility. The highway reopened again early Wednesday morning.

Thick smoke from an out of control forest fire hangs above Highway 631 near White River. May 29/23 (Ontario Provincial Police)

A blaze, known as Wawa 3, between the communities of White River and Hornepayne is the second largest forest fire in the Ontario and is growing, fire officials said.

The out-of-control fire started May 27 and has grown to 5,770.4 hectares in size as of Wednesday morning.

Officials said the blaze is spreading to the northeast away from White River and is roughly 40 kilometres from Hornepayne.

"Throughout the day we’ve seen it grow significantly," Kyle Hayward from the aviation forest fire emergency service to CTV News on Tuesday.

"That’s to be expected as the temperature, right now, is still in the 25 to 30 degree C range and relative humidity levels are fairly low. There’s still a significant amount of wind adding fuel to this fire."

Officials in the Township of Hornepayne said they are in regular contact with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Ontario Provincial Police. They said the emergency management team has been working tirelessly.

A fire ban, including fireworks, is in effect in the community.

It's been over five years since the town has been impacted by forest fires and Mayor Cheryl Fort told CTV News they want to ensure if evacuation is needed, it can happen calmly.

"I think all of us can join together in northern Ontario and know the fear and anxiety that forest fires can create when they’re close and around our community," Fort said.

"Throughout the summer, we hear of many evacuations and things that are happening across the north and we feel for all of the communities and it just happens that Hornepayne is at the brink of it now."

Smoke and flames seen from closed Highway 631 near White River. May 29/23 (Ontario Provincial Police)

There are currently 10 active fires in the north with region with six in the northeast as of Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Three of the fires are deemed "not under control," Wawa 3, the smaller Wawa 2 -- west of White River that is 105 hectares in size -- and one in Sioux Lookout that is 10,253 hectares.

Thick forest fire smoke seen from Highway 631 near White River. May 29/23 (Ontario Provincial Police)

Find the latest information on the forest fires here. Top Stories

Stay Connected