Facing drought conditions, MNR braces for forest fires

Ministry of Natural Resources FireRanger crews are on guard for fires throughout the region as forests experience drought-like conditions.
“Now, the entire Fort Frances district is under high to extreme fire hazard,” Matt Myers MNR’s fire management supervisor, said yesterday.
“Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora and Thunder Bay are the areas under heightened concern throughout the Northwest region,” he continued.
Crews have battled five fires over the last two days, three of which were caused by lightning. The other two were started by people.
“We’re asking people to be extremely cautious with every type of open fire,” Myers urged. “Everything from an open campfire to the coals from a barbecue and we are recommending that people not burn any brush.”
If someone does spot smoke or a forest fire they are urged to call the fire reporting line at 1-888-284-FIRE.
The current fire rating results from drought-like conditions experienced throughout the region.
Those conditions are expected to continue throughout the month of August, making for a tinderbox full of trouble.
“[Because of drought conditions], fires burn a little deeper and the time commitment for each fire is a little longer,” Myers explained.
Local fire crews have received assistance from the rest of the province in preparation for blazes that are expected over the next couple of days. There are currently three helicopters and nine fire crews standing by in our area.
Myers said if it wasn’t for the confidence they have in their current fire-fighting resources, the district would probably be under a restricted burn again this week.
He added that rain anticipated in this week’s weather forecast isn’t even a relief, since this is the season for lightning storms.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “We’re expecting one or two lightning fires at least in the next couple of days.”
While conditions are heating up here, that doesn’t mean Fort Frances fire crews aren’t heading out to battle bigger blazes in the rest of North America as they have in the past.
Myers said that they were sending two fire crews and three fire technicians to Oregon to fight an enormous blaze called the “Sour Biscuit” fire. Local crews have also fought fires in Saskatchewan and Alberta already this year.