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Forest fire expected to grow

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Choking smoke above a large forest fire in Northwestern Ontario grounded waterbombers after winds died down and the smoke settled, making visibility difficult, officials said today.

The fire—known as Thunder Bay 37—was expected to reach 10,000 hectares in size.

A group of 130 firefighters from British Columbia arrived in Thunder Bay last night to help battle the flames along with a number of other fires in the region.

As of yesterday, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources reported 13 active fires in the region, including Thunder Bay 37—the blaze that jumped the border from Minnesota into Ontario last week.

Bob Thomas, a spokesman with MNR, said most of the newcomers would be deployed to the big fire.

A single millimetre of rain fell last night.

“It’s a start,” Thomas said today.

“There is a chance of more rain in the forecast for today and into tonight, but it could be a mixed blessing in the sense that there could be some lightning thrown in with it,” he added.

As many as 300 people—mostly cottagers—have been evacuated from the fire’s path while a few hundred more are on alert.

Thanks to cooler temperatures and dying winds, a second fire—this one just 50 km north of Thunder Bay—has responded to attempts to knock it down.

The fire grew rapidly yesterday and by late afternoon covered 1,000 hectares.

Thomas called it a “contentious” fire.

“It is also in a very heavy recreation use area,” he noted.

Officials were concerned they would have to close down the Armstrong Highway, which runs from Lake Superior to the community of Armstrong on the west side of Lake Nipigon, but that wasn’t needed.

Only eight cottagers had to be evacuated, and it was expected they would be allowed to go back today.

Thomas said fire crews appeared to have a handle on that fire.

“Our batting average so far this spring hasn’t been great, so it’s nice to get one,” he remarked.

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