Increased fire activity seen across region

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

There has been an increase in fire activity in the region, with 34 active fires in the northwestern region and 13 for the eastern side of the province from the Town of Marathon to Quebec, adding up to a total of 47 active fires in Ontario.

Chris Marchand, fire information officer with the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services centre in Dryden, said there has been a lot of action in the Fort Frances area.

“There is a cluster of fires in Fort Frances 43, 44 and 45. These are approximately 55 kilometres north of Fort Frances,” Marchand said. “These fires received some aerial suppression from water bombers as fire behaviour was quite challenging on them.”

Marchand said Fort Frances 43 and Fort Frances 45 fires are not yet under control and they are about nine and 10 hectares in size, respectively. Marchand added that the escalated wildland fire hazards is a result of the warm temperatures and high winds the region has seen over the past few weeks.

“We’re beginning to see some precipitation in the north part of the region and lower hazard conditions,” Marchand said. “But at this moment, hazard conditions remain high to extreme in the Fort Frances sector, particularly along the U.S. border.”

There is also a cluster of six fires in the Fort Frances sector located in the southern reaches of Quetico Park. Marchand said these are small fires that are located in a remote setting and being monitored, but left to burn for the ecological value that fire has in boreal settings.

As the weather moves in, there is a possibility of a reprieve in the intense fire behaviour in this area, Marchand said.

Every fire receives an investigation on whether the fire is caused by nature or human activity, Marchand said, but lightning activity had been common in the area.

“The remote nature of some of these fires certainly points to lightning as a factor during this part of the season,” Marchand said. “We fly planes over most of the region where there has been significant lightning activity to try to find fires that can sometimes pop up after a few days. But the established cause of the fires is still being investigated.”

Marchand said based on results of previous province-wide investigations, it is usually a 50 per cent split. However, Marchand added that in the northwestern region, statistics skewed more towards nature being a factor because of the population density that is in the northeast.

To date, the province has had 372 fires, 254 of which were in the northwestern region this season.

In terms of land burnt, in the west, about 26,352 hectares were burned, while the total hectares burned in the province is 26,608. This means the northwestern region accounts for about 99 per cent of the hectares burned provincially.

However, the 10-year average to date is much higher with about 53,714 hectares burned

“We’ve had more fires, but they haven’t been as big,” Marchand said. “That reflects a more aggressive strategy towards managing fires during COVID simply because things are more complex, and we’re going after things harder and faster, just to keep small problems small and keep them from developing into larger ones.”

Marchand said while they did not have to evacuate anybody because the fires were not located around residential areas, they had to issue an implementation order in the Nipigon region.

This is a tool they put in place to keep people out of an active firefighting area to more effectively fight the fire, Marchand said.

Marchand said they are notified of fire activity from the public and their aerial detection flights.

“We will fly over large areas of the northwest region, particularly in areas where lightning has recently been detected and look for new fire start,” Marchand said. “We get a lot of calls from private aviation or bush planes who are perhaps flying to the remote far north and they see something.”

If you see fire activity, please dial 310-fire or 310-3473 to report it.