A forest fire has prompted the evacuation of Red Lake and closed the highway to Madsen.

A notice was posted on the Municipality of Red Lake’s Facebook page alerting residents to the evacuation, although no notice could be found on the town’s website late Monday night.

“The Municipality of Red Lake is advising that all residents must evacuate the municipality as soon as possible and we ask that you leave this evening, if you can. All vulnerable populations are asked to leave the community immediately,” the statement said.

Earlier Monday, the natural resources ministry’s Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services confirmed Red Lake 49 as a new fire. It was described as not under control and about five hectares in size in the afternoon, with water bombers working to suppress the fire.

In the early evening of Monday, Ontario Provincial Police announced that Highway 618 to Madsen, southwest of Red Lake, was closed due to the fire.

“It is the safety of our residents that is our first priority. We ask that all residents follow this directive to ensure the safety and well-being of all of us,” said Red Lake Mayor Fred Mota in the Facebook post.

The statement also said air transportation was being co-ordinated with Emergency Management Ontario and that temporary shelter was available for those in need at the Dryden Arena/Recreation Centre.

Residents considered vulnerable were directed to call (807) 727-7106 or email municipality@redlake.ca if they needed help evacuating or arranging overnight accommodations. Vulnerable individuals include those without transportation or supports, those with breathing difficulties and those with accessibility concerns.

The municipality also emphasized the importance of evacuees registering themselves to ensure they can be assisted while away from Red Lake.

“Residents are asked to stop in at the Township of Ear Falls office on you way through Ear Falls. Or, you can register at the Dryden Arena/Recreation Centre,” said the statement. “We ask that you please check on your neighbours and ensure everyone is accounted for and provided with a safe means out of the community.”

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