Slightly quieter weekend on fire front

While 70 fires remain active across Northwestern Ontario, the number of new starts took a dip over the weekend with the Ministry of Natural Resources reporting only six.
Two of these were in Fort Frances District while one was reported in Dryden District, another in Kenora District, and the remaining two in Nipigon District.
Local fire information officer Rachel Hill said this morning that two lightning-caused blazes started overnight in the southeast corner of Quetico Provincial Park.
These small fires were still burning as of press time, but expected to be “out” later today.
Including these two, Fort Frances District currently has 11 active fires, burning 2,024.1 ha.
Fort Frances District has had 86 fires to date, consuming around 2,054 ha, while the West Fire Region as a whole has seen 651 fires to date, burning 15,967 ha.
Quetico Park remains the busiest area in the district for fires, Hill noted, but recent rains gave crews there the chance to attack blazes that have been burning for a while.
In other news, Hill noted a column of smoke from Dryden Fire #79, a 2,400-ha blaze about 20 km southwest of Vermilion Bay, switched with the wind and blew into the district Saturday, causing some area residents to believe a fire was burning nearby.
“It was temporary. It was very thick and heavy, with chunks of ash in it,” Hill remarked. “That’s why people were convinced it was closer than really was.”
Despite a little rain over the weekend, the fire hazard remains “high” in every district in the West Fire Region, stressed Hill.
“We need way more rain than we got,” she said. “It slowed everything down, but things will dry out very quickly and the fires will flare up again.”
“We saw a temporary reduction in the fire hazard. But with the warm weather and sunshine today, we’ll be right back into a high hazard situation,” echoed fire information officer Travis Moffatt.
He added the Fort Frances area saw less rain than other parts of the region over the weekend.
Meanwhile, a Restricted Fire Zone imposed early last week across most of the region remains in effect. This means all burning permits are suspended and all open fires are prohibited until further notice.
People still can use portable gas stoves for cooking and warmth, but the public is urged to exercise extreme caution.
Anyone with questions regarding the fire ban can drop by the local MNR office or call the fire management headquarters at 274-8643.
As well, an Emergency Area Order was implemented Saturday due to the fire raging near Vermilion Bay.
Under it, access on and use of Winnange Lake, Teggau Lake, Rogers Lake, and the west arm of Eagle Lake is prohibited in order to ensure public safety and allow for effective fire suppression operations.
Exemptions, for access into the EAO area, may be authorized through a permit issued by Dryden District.
To report a wildfire in Northwestern Ontario, call 1-888-284-FIRE (3473).