Forest fire season winding down

FORT FRANCES—With the Ministry of Natural Resources’ fire season officially ending this coming Tuesday (Oct. 31), the remaining personnel are wrapping up what has gone down as a very busy seven months.
“What we’re dealing with now is the benefit of the cooler weather,” MNR fire information officer Deb MacLean said Friday morning.
“That has enabled the fire program to make advances on the multiple fires they were dealing with, particularly over in the Thunder Bay and Nipigon districts,” she added.
“We’re down to 62 active fires in the region, which are mainly the remnants of fire activity we had in September, over towards west of Thunder Bay and north, up towards the bottom end of Lake Nipigon.
“It’s a matter of monitoring now. If there’s any sign of life, it will stay on the books,” noted MacLean.
“On the bright side, Fort Frances District has declared all of the fires in Quetico Park ‘out’ earlier this week.”
MacLean said just one fire was still burning in Fort Frances District—Fire #189—which was first reported early this month at the Sun Gro (formerly Normiska) peat plant northwest of town.
“It’s still smouldering. It’s better in the sense that the windrows that were ignited have basically burned down,” she noted. “But they’re still dealing with it smouldering, so they’re not going to declare it ‘out’ for some time.”
That fire will continue to be monitored by Sun Gro staff and local MNR personnel.
There fire hazard is “low” everywhere in the region, and there currently are no fires burning in the Dryden, Kenora, and Sioux Lookout districts.
Seven are still burning in Thunder Bay District, 18 in Red Lake District, and 36 in Nipigon District.
There has been a total of 1,716 fires to date this season, consuming 144,534 hectares.
MacLean noted this is 1,000 more fires than the 10-year average of 716 but the hectarage burned is, in fact, lower than the 10-year average of 180,000 ha.
She added the sheer numbers of blazes demonstrates how busy MNR crews have been since April 1, especially considering many of the fires happened in separate concentrated bursts of activity in July, August, and September.
And while all the fires may not have been major ones, MacLean stressed that big or small, all fires require the same response from the MNR and can equally tax MNR resources.
While the MNR fire season officially ends Oct. 31 and therefore the Fire Prevention Act no longer is in effect, MacLean said that doesn’t mean the public should let down their guard.
“That doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of fire prevention. There’s definitely vegetation out there—whether it’s grass or brush—that’s susceptible, flammable.
“We could still get some fires.
“Fall clean-up, brush piles, and things like that—these still have to be properly monitored and managed, and not just lit and walked away from,” MacLean warned.
“The bottom line is this—a person who lights a fire that spreads and causes damage will be held responsible whether or not the Fire Prevention Act is in effect at that point in time.”
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)