Skip to content

Forest fire near French River consumes 12,000 acres in three days

Believed to be the cause of poor air quality in the Sault

A large, fast-growing and out of control forest fire in the Parry Sound district is prompting evacuations and large-scale response from the MNR and international partners.

This fire is believed to be the cause of poor air quality across Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District on Saturday.

The fire, only three days old, has very quickly spread to nearly 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres or 50 square kilometres).

Twenty-seven hours ago, the MNR reported the fire as being a fraction that size, at 384 hectares.  Friday night, it was 1,900 hectares.

The fire, known as Parry Sound 33, is about 15km southwest of the French River Trading Post and just 10km southwest of Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

With forecast wind gusts of 35-40km/hr from the east, the fire is expected to continue quickly burning eastward through French River Provincial Park.  Killarney is some 60km west of the eastern boundary of French River Provincial Park.

The Ministry of Natural Resources on Friday issued a mandatory evacuation order of the Key Harbour area, while the municipality of Killarney declared a state of local emergency.

The CBC is reporting that the severity of the fire has led to an international response, with the MNR's own water bombers being supported by firefighters from Mexico, the U.S. and from across Canada.  Dozens of aircraft are currently fighting fires across the province.

The MNR is currently dealing with at least 65 fires across the province, 34 of which remain out of control.

Health Canada says inhaling smoke can be quite dangerous.  Fine particles in the smoke are toxic, and can penetrate deep into the lungs and lead to serious health effects.  While everyone is affected, fine particulate is particularly dangerous for small children, the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, and those with asthma.

As of 5pm Saturday, Environment Canada continues to report the Air Quality Health Index in Sault Ste. Marie as "Low Risk".

However, an air quality sensor operated by in downtown Sault Ste. Marie suggests quite the opposite.  The sensor has been reporting an Air Quality Index (AQI) of around 155 all afternoon, which most international standards deem to be "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy".