Fewer fires burned nearly same amount of land

by Jason Bain | November 5, 2019
Large forest fire in northern Ontario
Fire ignition operations at Red Lake 23 near Keewaywin in Ontario’s far north. Red Lake 23 was Ontario’s largest fire of 2019 at 96,535 hectares. Photo courtesy AFFES/OMNRF

There were fewer forest fires in Ontario this year, but they burned nearly the same amount of landscape as in 2018, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

More than 530 fires burned approximately 269,600 hectares of land in northern and central Ontario, the ministry reported on Monday, Nov. 4 after the wildland fire season officially ended Oct. 31.

There were more than 1,000 fires last year. This year, two large fires in the Red Lake area scorched more than 140,000 acres and forced the evacuation of nearly half of the Pikangikum First Nation.

An additional $60 million was provided to firefighting efforts in 2019, government officials stated.

Few fires did big damage

The season varied by location, said Dryden-based Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) northwest region Fire Information Officer Chris Marchand.

“In the northeast, fire ranger crews were involved in a spring flooding effort, while over here in the northwest, we saw a relatively brief but intense window of fire activity in districts like Red Lake and Sioux Lookout throughout June – just a handful of large fires that accounted for most of the land base that was affected by fire this year,” he wrote via email.

Spring concerning time

The weather played a larger role in regulating fires and helping teams battling them by mid-July, Marchand added.

Waterbomber dropping water on forest fire
A CL-415 Airtanker (waterbomber) drops water on a 2019 fire. Photo courtesy AFFES/OMNRF

With most major fires starting between May 29 and June 30, this season also demonstrated a going concern for AFFES for fires that take place during spring.

“It’s a time when forest fuels are generally drier and fire hazards rebound faster before the forest has fully ‘greened up,’” he said. “This is also a period when we see a greater prevalence of person-caused fires which tend to be located closer to populated areas.”

The ministry utilizes a fleet of 29 airplanes to detect fires, drop water, and transport crews and cargo, as well as 13 helicopters used for attacking fires, training, and transporting cargo and crews.

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