Yesterday’s forest fire between White River and Marathon, Waw007 is now 275 hectares or 680 acres and is not under control at this time. MyWawa observed at least five fire crews arriving by truck, and saw one aircraft waterbombing. The fire began mid afternoon between Rouse Lake and Cache Lake. As the fire progressed and crossed the highway, OPP closed the highway, stopping traffic eastwards at Rouse Lake and at westward traffic at Barrick Gold (Williams and David Bell mines) as the fire crossed the highway.
Traffic was stopped at Moose Lake a mere 4 kilometres west of the fire. The MNR Birddog could be seen high in the sky, and a water bomber was dropping water. Across from the mine, a yellow tanker was refilling at the mine, and then travelling down to the highway and soaking the west side where the fire was spreading. Hydro One was seen doing something to the power lines. OPP did drive the waiting line of traffic to advise that we would be waiting for a while, conditions were treacherous. The fire had jumped the highway and that the mine was being evacuated.
Not long after that statement, an officer was seen heading east. He went to the end of the line and began turning people back to White River. The fire was moving fast, the smoke was billowing behind the mine. He was asking everyone to leave immediately (6:14 p.m.) and head back to White River. We were no longer safe at that spot. Transports had to back up at least a kilometre to a spot to turn back around and head east. At 7 p.m. the fire was a reported 20 ha or 49 acres.
As we were waiting in White River, people were told that Highway 11 was now closed. Fires burning near Geraldton/Greenstone had forced the closure of Highway 11 as well. Travel through northern Ontario was stopped. If you had a passport you could head back to Sault Ste. Marie and go through Michigan and Minnesota and back up to Thunder Bay. Most stayed put in White River. For the most part people were not very upset, but as time went on, and with the power out, some were frustrated with the lack of available services. Most though, were prepared for travel delays or were with campers for the long weekend, and had extra water and food on hand. Other then the wind, at least people were not stuck in their cars trying to stay warm.
White Lake Provincial Park was not evacuated, and although smoke was visible from there – was not in danger.
In Geraldton, things were more serious. A state of emergency was made, Natural Gas had been shut off to the Geraldton Area as a matter of precaution. Residents are advised not to attempt to re-lite the gas themselves. Hwy 584 north of Geraldton was closed as well, Residents, camps north of the town were being evacuated.
Being proactive, Hornepayne issued a fire ban: “To all Hornepayne residents. Please be advised that a fire ban is now in effect and there is no open fires permitted in the township until otherwise advised. Thanks to all for your cooperation. Thanks Dennis Mackie fire chief.”
At 10:32 p.m. Highway 17 finally opened and everyone was off. There was a huge line of traffic, and everyone was in a hurry to get home to Marathon and points west. Rain was falling from
Travel through Northern Ontario remains difficult today. Highway 584 approx 2 km north of Geraldton remains closed due to forest fire. Highway 11 between Hearst and Longlac also remains closed due to forest fire.
There is still no power in White River, so purchasing anything may be in question. Hydro One says that 646 customers are out of power at this time, with estimates of the power being restored by 11 p.m. Reports on Facebook state that in Geraldton, “people lining up at #58 General Store to get gas. They’re limiting it to $40 per car.”
MyWawa will continue to update road closures.
9:03 a.m. (from Ontario 511)
HWY 11 CLOSED BETWEEN LONGLAC AND HEARST – REOPENING TIME UNKNOWN – DETOUR FOR WESTBOUND TRAFFIC VIA HWY 631 TO HWY 17 – UPDATED MAY 24 AT 08:05 HRS
Hwy 11 closed between Longlac and Hearst. Reopening time unknown. Updated May 24 at 07:23 A.M.
Hwy 584 is closed at the Water Treatment Plant (2km north of Geraldton) due to a forest fire. Reopening time unknown. Updated May 24 at 07:23 A.M