The MNR’s Northwest Fire Region has almost half the crews than it did last year. Thankfully, as of May 18, the Region has seen eight fires — 101 fewer than the province had on the same date last year.
Chris Marchand, the Region’s information officer says if the Region were to see an escalated fire situation — which is not the case at the moment — they have the flexibility bring in resources from elsewhere.
During the extreme fire season last year, the Northwest was able to draw from other province’s resources, as well as international partners from Australia and Mexico.
Marchand says the Incident Command System is used as a universal way of operating during an emergency, so international partners can come in and function the same as those helping within the country.
“People from far away can come right into a local situation and know how we work, and we know how they work,” says Marchand. “So that really offers a lot of flexibility in those types of situations.”
Last year this time, the province saw 18,273 hectares burnt with the bulk of it being in the Northwest. This year, the Northwest has seen but 1.1 hectare burnt so far, while the Northeast has had 2,349.
Marchand says this year seems to be the inverse of last. He says the Northwest Fire Region sent 19 four-person crews to the Northeast where the fire situation is more severe.
The remaining crews in the Northwest have been keeping busy in other ways.
“They’ve been filling sandbags instead of fighting fires,” says Marchand. “In that sense, we’ve been lucky that this has been an extremely late start to the fire season.”
Marchand says it’s hard to forecast how the rest of the year might look.
“It’s difficult to anticipate what the weather is going to do,” he says. “We don’t have a pressing situation at the moment.”
He says they can only prepare for a statistically normal fire season, and it seems to vary substantially from year to year.
The MNR extended their fire ranger application deadline a couple weeks, which Marchand said helped allow to bring in a few more applicants.
He says during that process, they found that many other sectors are also scrambling to find applicants.