Fire situation ‘critical’: Terpstra

The fire hazard remains “high” for much of the region, and there’s little or no rain in the forecast to bring moisture levels up.
As such, most municipalities across Northwestern Ontario have suspended all burning permits, and are not issuing new ones, until the fire hazard drops.
“We haven’t had a significant rainfall west of Lake Nipigon yet this spring,” said Mitch Miller, with the MNR’s Fire Management Centre near Dryden.
“The fire hazard is increasing daily, and will continue to worsen daily until we get rain,” he warned.
John Terpstra, sector response officer at the MNR’s fire management headquarters here, said the top brass in Thunder Bay will be discussing the possibility of implementing a restricted fire zone over the entire region.
“We’re lucking out with cool nights right now because it’s early in the season,” he said. “[But] we’re into a high or extreme hazard.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re critical right now,” he stressed.
Initial attack crews have done a good job containing the fires, Miller said, but fires are becoming more intense as the ground dries up.
“What fire [crews] are reporting now is that fires are burning into the ground,” Miller said. “Which means crews will be there longer. That will be a drain on our resources.”
What’s really needed is rainfall, Miller said, which is all but absent from the forecast.
“There’s a chance of some scattered showers Thursday but we’re looking at a return of clear weather and blue skies Friday,” he noted.
“That much rain doesn’t soak into the ground,” Terpstra added. “Two or three hours of sunshine and we’d be right back to where we were.”
So far, the area hasn’t had any lightning strikes, which Terpstra said is good news. “If we had a lightning storm run through with little rain, we’d be busy,” he added.
But that means nearly all 95 fires that have ignited in the region at last report, including the 16 in Fort Frances District, have been human-caused, which Miller hinted could fuel an argument for a restricted fire zone.
“If our current efforts to reduce human-caused fires aren’t successful, we may have to look at more restrictive measures,” he warned.