Extreme fire behaviour in the region

Extreme fire behaviour has been detected across the region which has resulted in a few large fires of concern, mainly in the Kenora and Thunder Bay regions.

The extreme fire activity was in the Willard Lake area, between Vermillion Bay and Kenora, with fires known as Kenora 25, Kenora 27 and Kenora 30.

Chris Marchand, fire information officer with the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services centre in Dryden, said both fires are well over 1,000 hectares that required heavy water bomber action.

Although the implementation order, a tool that the Min- istry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) uses that enables them to close roads and evacuate areas that might be threatened by wildfires, is no longer in effect for the region, the fires are still active and considered a dangerous area that members of the public should stay away from.

Marchand said the rain that came towards the end of the week did help firefighters.

“The wet weather is definitely great news for crews of firefighters who’ve been working on that fire, as well as the cottagers in the tourist camps that are in the area who were evacuated earlier this week,” Marchand said. “The rain really gives crews time to establish hose lines and do their job in putting that fire out.”

As per the latest update, although all fires are not yet under control, they have not gained in size over the week. The fire hazard across the region has been reduced to low as a result of the widespread rains that have fallen.

“A lot of places that were quite dry, especially Emo and Rainy River, received significant rain and so our fire hazard could bounce back quickly,” Marchand said.

The only active fire in Fort Frances is Fort Frances 5, located south of Seine River and north of Lac La Croix.

“That fire is now under control at 144 hectares,” Marchand said. “That’s a significant milestone for that fire. It means that they’re mopping up and demobilizing operations on that fire. The fire is not going to get any bigger than it already has become.”

Thus far, the northwestern side of the Ontario province, from the Manitoba border to the Town of Marathon, had 86 fires. The total fires the province had is 111. The 10-year average of fires during this time of year is 133.

“We’re a little under average,” Marchand said.

However, the MNRF has seen 18,514 hectares affected by fire during this season. The 10-year average of hectares affected by fires during this time of year is 12,837.

“That’s a significant number,” Marchand said. “The fires we’ve had in the last week have been quite large due to the extreme fire behaviour.”

Marchand said they are made aware of the fires from reports from the public and their detection sites.

“We have a contract aircraft that patterns around the region. They usually look for where lightning has gone through, and they look for smokes or signs of fire on the landscape from the air.”

Marchand said it is hard to know at this point the cause of the fire, and whether it involved human practices or nature.

“Every fire is investigated for its cause, but those investigations are ongoing,” Marchand added.

“It’s hard to tell the cause of any specific fire. Lightning becomes more of a factor later in the season, although it is becoming a factor earlier this year.”