POLITICS

State of emergency lifted in Kirkland Lake, Ont., after forest fire held

05/29/2012 11:49 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT
KIRKLAND LAKE, Ont. - The state of emergency for the northeastern Ontario town of Kirkland Lake has been lifted after fire crews managed to surround a nearby forest fire.

Firefighters have been battling a large fire on the northern edge of town for the past 10 days. The fire has been as close as three kilometres to the community of more than 9,000 people.

But on Tuesday morning, the status of the fire was downgraded to "being held" as crews managed to surround the 10-kilometre-long blaze with fire hose.

The community came through just fine, said Mayor Bill Enouy, who also thanked emergency workers including provincial police, hydro workers and staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

"I think we got our message out not to panic and to be prepared and I think people bought into that," Enouy said Tuesday.

"It was a really good experience other than the fact that it was a bad experience, if you know what I mean."

Calling a state of emergency allowed the town to get extra help from the police, hydro and support staff at the ministries involved, the mayor said.

But now that the emergency order is lifted, residents can get back to some normalcy, said Sgt. Dana McLean of Ontario Provincial Police.

"State of emergency means that things aren't happening within the town," she said.

"Everything sort of goes in a hold pattern. So your real estate is stalled, loans are stalled. A lot of things are stalled in the day-to-day lives of people. Now those lives can go back to normal."

Hydro One said Tuesday that power has been restored to the mines that had been affected by forest fires in the Kirkland Lake area.

Restoring power took six days and involved replacing 42 electrical structures and repairing other electrical components, Hydro One said.

Kirkland Lake Gold has said it hoped to return to production on the Thursday day shift.

An additional 20 fire rangers were expected in the Kirkland Lake area, adding to the 100 Ministry of Natural Resources workers already on the scene.

Provincial police say they have determined the fire was started by campers in a recreational area and are asking for the public's help identifying those responsible.

The word of Kirkland Lake lifting its emergency came one day after Timmins, about 140 kilometres to the northwest, took that step.

Cooler temperatures and rain had helped dampen the forest fire about 30 kilometres away from the centre of Timmins, a city of about 43,000.

Hundreds of residents were forced to flee their homes, cottages and camps near Timmins and Kirkland Lake over the last week as the fires raged. Some have been allowed to return but many are still waiting for the all-clear.

Emergency officials have said that while conditions have improved, access to at-risk areas will likely be limited for some time.

(CJKL, The Canadian Press)