Parry Sound, Ont., community coming together as wildfire burns nearby


TORONTO — Community members are coming together in Parry Sound, Ont., as a persistent nearby wildfire approaches a major highway.

The blaze, known as Parry Sound 33, sprung up on July 18. Ontario firefighters have been fighting it with the help of their counterparts from other provinces, as well as the United States and Mexico.

While fire crews are working, community members are doing their best to support them.

Matthew Derouin, who runs a Sobeys in Parry Sound, said he was contacted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and asked whether he’d be interested in providing food for the firefighters.

“We jumped at the opportunity,” said Derouin. “This situation is affecting members of our community, a lot of customers, family members and friends.”

Since summer is the peak season for his store, Derouin said he did not have enough hands to help pack the food in boxes and coolers, so he put out a call to the community.

“I thought there might be 50 or 60 people who would come to help us, but I ended up with over 200 people who came to volunteer their time,” he said. “It really was a community-driven event.”

The boxes and coolers were picked up Saturday morning and transported to the newly established command post in the nearby community of Britt, Ont. From there, they are flown to crews in the field.

The fire is now 76 square kilometres, and water bombers are trying to cut it down, said Shayne McCool, a spokesman for the Ministry of Natural Resources. It’s only seven kilometres away from a stretch of the Trans Canada highway, so the ministry and provincial police are monitoring the situation closely, he said.

If the smoke is heavy enough, McCool said a portion of the highway could be closed.

Derouin said he has already received orders for Sunday and will be continuing to provide food for the firefighters in the upcoming weeks.

“I think the seriousness and the severity around this fire is really starting to take shape,” he said. “We did have people here today that are most likely going to lose their buildings and cottages and homes.

“We also had people who were not directly affected, but simply wanted to help the best they could.”



Gabriele Roy, The Canadian Press