An aerial photograph released by the Ministry of Natural Resources Pembroke District Office Sunday shows the wildfire at CFB Petawawa as it burned on Friday. The blaze has been contained to a 210-hectare area, however, officials don't consider it under control yet.
Credits: QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA -- A wildfire raging at CFB Petawawa is not spreading into neighbouring Algonquin Park, but officials Sunday feared that could change if the weather deteriorates.
Overcast skies over the region were a sign that things could get worse for firefighters battling the blaze, which has burned up 210 hectares since Thursday in the far western reaches of the base's training area.
Environment Canada has forecasted a 60% chance of showers with the risk of a thunderstorm in the evening. Those storms might generate lightening strikes that could spawn more fires in the area.
A second fire on the base, which was discovered Saturday, has grown to five hectares, base officials confirmed Sunday.
"The fire is not considered under control but is growing slowly at this time," said Capt. Sally Ann Cyr, public affairs officer for 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group.
The main fire was largely contained within a perimeter established by firefighters with the Department of National Defence assisted by heavy equipment operators from 2 Combat Engineer, who used bulldozers to dig out fire lanes to contain the flames.
The ministry of natural resources (MNR) also confirmed that the fire is situated south of Montgomery Lake, the site of an abandoned boy scout camp, and remains 100 metres from the Algonquin Park boundary.
The area has largely been clear cut over the years so that the military could construct a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in order to train soldiers for overseas missions.
"We're in an extreme fire response situation," MNR spokesman Doug Skeggs said.
The fire is still classified as "not under control" due to the ever-changing wind and weather conditions. The possibility of thunderstorms is causing great concern for firefighters, he added.
"There's not a great deal of rain associated with those storms," he said. "So we are looking at the potential for thunder strikes and new (fire) outbreaks."
A fire behaviour expert with the MNR is on the scene assisting the base fire department with developing fire suppression strategies, while the ministry continues to fly in helicopters to dump water on the flames.
Meanwhile, the evacuation of five campsites inside the park is complete. Park wardens ordered up to 400 people to leave the area on Friday night. It was more challenging locating the campers already canoeing on the Petawawa and Barron rivers and isolated interior lakes, Skeggs said, adding he doesn't believe there are any stragglers left behind.
"We believe we've got everybody but we are continuing to patrol," he said.
The mandatory closure of the east side of Algonquin Park, ordered on Friday, affected access to Sec Lake gate, McManus Lake gate, Achray Grand Lake gate and Lake Traverse in the park, plus all Crown land between the park boundary and Barron Canyon Road, the main access point.
Ontario Provincial Police and Ontario Parks employees continued Sunday to man roadblocks on Barron Canyon Road west of Petawawa.