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Rain system moving in to northern Ontario could help wildfire battle

A fire attack helicopter carrying a water sack lands as Fire Rangers battle a forest fire just a few kilometres west of Timmins, Ont., on Saturday, May 26, 2012.

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Steady showers are expected to bring much-needed relief to northern Ontario communities battling dangerous forest fires for the past week.

Officials with the Ministry of Natural Resources say a rain system moving into the region today should help firefighters douse raging blazes near Timmins and Kirkland Lake, which are about 140 kilometres apart.

They say the damp weather could also prevent new wildfires, allowing fire crews to focus their efforts on the ones that have threatened rural communities since last Sunday.

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Both Timmins and Kirkland Lake remain under a state of emergency and officials are on high alert, though conditions seemed to improve this weekend as the winds calmed down.

Powerful gusts fuelled the flames and pushed clouds of smoke and ash toward the communities at various times throughout the week. The winds also limited the use of water bombers.

Hundreds of residents have been forced to flee their homes, cottages and camps. Some have been allowed to return but the majority are still displaced.

Those living on Goldthorpe Road in Kirkland Lake were able to go home Saturday evening and residents of Goodfish Lake Road could get the green light as early as 10 a.m. this morning.

An evacuation order for the lakeside community of Kamiskotia near Timmins was lifted late Friday and 300 people have been let in.

Another 800 people are still barred from their homes and properties in the areas flanking the city of 43,000.

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