Ottawa fire crews spent hours aggressively attacking a raging blaze in a forested area along Moodie Dr. in west Ottawa on Thursday.
Their goal: get a handle on it before nightfall.
“When it gets dark, it’s too dangerous to have crews out in the forest,” Ottawa fire spokesman Marc Messier said at the scene.
“It’s just too risky.”
After nightfall, a few crews will monitor the flames “and then we’ll be back in the morning, if we have to look after hot spots,” he said.
Eleven homes on Richmond Rd., at the north end of the forest, were evacuated as a precautionary measure due to heavy smoke, and residents later returned. A nearby centre with about 300 birds was not evacuated by early evening.
The area is generally known to hikers as the Lime Kiln Trail, on National Capital Commission property.
When crews arrived around 2:30 p.m., an estimated 10 acres were aflame, but fire spread rapidly in the dry conditions.
“We’re probably looking at closer to about 100 acres affected,” Messier said at 6 p.m.
“That’s not what’s burning — that’s what has been burnt already.”
Between 60 to 70 firefighters fought the flames by hand, hauling bush hose hundreds of metres from access points and carrying five-gallon water tanks on their backs.
“Unfortunately we can’t get water in there easily, so they are forced to bring it in by foot,” said Messier.
A firefighting helicopter from the Ministry of Natural Resources was called in to assist.
At 6:30 p.m., the fire was declared under control.
“They are making progress on it; however, conditions continue to change,” said Messier.
And that they did.
An hour later, crews were back at it, dousing hot spots.
Paramedics and Salvation Army staff were on hand to rehabilitate firefighters “so we can continue to keep them ready to go,” said Messier.
No injuries were reported as of 9:30 p.m.
Police closed Moodie between Hunt Club and Fallowfield, as well as Richmond Rd. in the same area.
The fire was reported at about 2 p.m. via multiple calls to 911.
At the height of the blaze, smoke was visible for kilometres in all directions.
The Sun has received images (see the attached gallery) from as far as Gatineau, Manotick and the Ottawa airport.
This was the second major brush fire in 24 hours as continuing drought and rising temperatures combine to make forests tinder dry, creating perfect conditions for these types of blazes.
Fire officials are asking residents to be more vigilant about discarded cigarette butts, barbecues and any other source of fire.