Forest fire situation escalating

FORT FRANCES—With a total of 146 active fires on their hands, including 69 reported on Wednesday alone, the Ministry of Natural Resources’ fire management division has crews working across the region.
It also has put out a call for more assistance from out-of-province.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources has seen close to 100 new starts in the past two days,” MNR fire information officer Travis Moffatt noted Thursday morning.
He added very dry conditions coupled with very strong winds created “increased control challenges” for fire crews Wednesday, but noted most of the blazes have been contained to small sizes.
The fire hazard in every district of the West Fire Region remains “high” to “extreme.”
With so much activity across the region, all of the FireRanger crews and other personnel that had been out-of-province are back, Moffatt said.
As well, an order has been submitted to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre for an additional 50 fire crews, overhead staff, and a Type 1 incident command team.
More than 30 fire personnel arrived here from Alberta on Wednesday.
Moffatt said the MNR’s top-priority fire right now is Dryden Fire #79, which started Wednesday near Winnage Lake and has grown to more than 400 hectares in size.
The blaze, located 20 km southwest of Vermilion Bay, is being attacked solely by waterbombers. Due to its volatility, ground crews were pulled off it Wednesday.
Any smoke area residents may have seen in the air yesterday was coming from this fire.
Of the new fires reported Wednesday, Fort Frances District responded to five. These included:
•Fire #78—10 km east of Atikokan (0.1 ha., extinguished);
•Fire #79—Scotch Lake area (2 ha., under control);
•Fire #80—Craven Lake area (0.1 ha, extinguished);
•Fire #81—Turtle River (0.3 ha., under control); and
•Fire #82—Trout Lake (0.3 ha., under control).
Fort Frances District currently has 17 active fires burning 25.4 ha. It has had 82 fires to date, consuming 50.3 ha.
The West Fire Region overall has seen a total of 601 fires to date, having burned about 10,900 ha.
Moffatt noted a Restricted Fire Zone remains in effect across the entire region, meaning 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 RFZ can drop by the local MNR office or call the fire management headquarters at 274-8643.
To report a wildfire in Northwestern Ontario, call 1-888-284-FIRE (3473).
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)