Region gets a water break

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

There is currently one fire with the status of not under control in the northwestern region, said Chris Marchand, fire information officer with the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services centre in Dryden.

There are currently 20 active fires in the region, with Red Lake 226 not under control, one fire being held, six fires under control and 12 fires being observed.

“It’s safe to say that the wet weather and cooler temperatures have done a lot to really temper the fire situation in the northwest region over the past two weeks,” Marchand said.

For example, Red Lake 77, a fire that caused plenty of concern to Red Lake communities over the summer, has become under control last week. Marchand said these are good indications that the large fire incidents are in a mop up phase, adding that the last new fire start was seen about two weeks ago.

The cool weather coupled with the rainfall has helped lift outdoor fire restrictions. The restricted fire zone was listed on September 1.

Marchand said this year saw a combination of high to extreme hazard levels, sometimes reaching 20 to 50 new fire starts per day. With a large draw on their resources, outdoor fire restrictions were introduced.

The outdoor fire restrictions prevented people from using propane appliances such as camp stoves or barbecues. What isn’t allowed in a restricted fire zone is open fires that are wood based outdoors. Marchand said people could still use their wood stove in their cottage but having a campfire outdoors was not permitted.

“The purpose of that restricted fire zone was really to prevent any human caused fires or to lower the potential for human caused fires in a time where our initial attack resources were fully engaged with an everyday stream of new fires on the landscape,” Marchand said.

Marchand added that fire restrictions usually get lifted when conditions improve, the hazard is reduced and the potential for new human-caused fires is lower.

“But this one persisted simply because we wanted to protect our capacity to respond to new situations,” Marchand added.

This season has seen 980 fires, with about 756,690 hectares burned in the northwestern region.

The whole province had 1,183 fires and burned 770,328 hectares, with the northwestern region accounting for 82 per cent of those fires and 98 per cent of burned hectares.

The 10-year province-wide average for fires is 812 and the 10-year average of hectares burned to date is 162,807.

Last year, there were 598 fires that burned 15,453 hectares.

“We could see the variability between years. Last year we had very few fires which burned very few hectares,” Marchand said. “The season that preceded that was one of remarkably less than average. It’s just a matter of how weather trends set themselves up and manifests throughout the fire season.”

Marchand said when the fire season is done, the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services centre will be busy sorting out and returning all the equipment, as well as equipment that’s been on loan from other provinces.

“Returning that stuff to good condition and preparing it for storage in the offseason is a fairly big task, as well as a lot of the administrative side of firefighting gets done around this time of year where we’re filing investigation reports for fires and determining their causes,” Marchand said.