Red Lake's mayor is hoping the weather is kind, but storms are coming. The Red Lake Ontario Fire is now only two kilometres from a neighbourhood in the area and now it sounds like they will also have to battle an oncoming thunderstorm and strong winds. However, some rain is also forecast, and the mayor is hopeful "Mother Nature will work in our favour."
The community has been hit with a warning for severe thunderstorm and strong winds that extends until early Friday morning.
The thunderstorm warning comes with risk of lightning strikes, which is the last thing Red Lake needs after days spent battling a forest fire.
While those conditions could pose a serious threat, heavy rain and nickle-sized hail are expected as well, according to a meteorologist.
Mayor Fred Mota said in a Facebook post on the municipality's website on Thursday evening: "The MNRF and volunteer fire crews are working diligently at maintaining the fire, however the fire remains active and is still 2 km from the Buffalo neighbourhood.
He added: "We are expecting 2 severe storms to pass through in the coming hours bringing lightning accompanied by wind gusts of up to 110 km/hr."
Mota noted to CP24 that the strong winds will pose "challenges and difficulties for the firefighters."
However, according to another Facebook post soon after 6 p.m., it was raining heavily in the area, although another storm was expected.
"We remain hopeful that Mother Nature will work in our favour," said Mota.
Rain is good news for Red Lake fire but lightning strikes could spark more fires in the area. https://t.co/g7FCylAxO5— Anthony Farnell (@Anthony Farnell)1597355708.0
Fire information officer Jonathan Scott added to CP24 that the firefighters in Red Lake have made great progress battling the fire over the past two days. The fire has shrunk from 750 hectares to 552 hectares.
Mota told CTV News that almost all of Red Lake’s residents have already evacuated as of Thursday afternoon — 3,800 of 4,000.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Ontario North - Environment Canada meteorologists are tracking a line of se… https://t.co/De4BOKQFpw— 511ONNorthwestern (@511ONNorthwestern)1597345883.0
Mota, though, said that he himself will not be evacuating Red Lake.
"To this point, the evacuation is voluntary, not mandatory. I'm staying. I'm here for our residents. I'm not going anywhere," he told TBWatchnews earlier this week.