Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services staff in the area are reflecting on a busy summer-season.
Lightning-caused fires dominated the local scene throughout July, August and September which threatened residents and their properties. As well as a number of fires throughout the season, local Fire Rangers were sent out west to assist Fire Rangers in British Columbia, as they dealt with a number of dangerous wildfires.
Fire Information Officer Jonathan Scott detailed just how busy they were in 2017.
"In 2017, we recorded 776 fires - burning a total of 111,955 hectares. When you compare that to the 10 year average, the average is 791 fires and 104,000 hectares burnt. The number of fires were below the 10 year average, but the hectares burned was above the average. During late July and August, there were many lightning-caused fires through the far north of the Northwest Region," he said.
The Northwest Region recorded 654 fires consuming 63,017 hectares. The data includes fires reported throughout the year, not just during the official fire season of April 1 to October 31. It does not include prescribed burns, or fires occurring outside of the fire region.
"One fire of note was in the Nipigon District, Nipigon fire #99, was a fire northeast of Nipigon. It got up to about 562 hectares. The fire was called out on September 19. The size of it and the location, where it was, we had to respond to it and give it full-suppression," he said.
This season, 207 of the 776 fires were caused by people with about 84.2 hectares of land burned as a result.There were 543 lightning caused fires and 104,275 hectares consumed.
Throughout the fire season, there were a total of 26 fires burning about 7,596 hectares for which the cause of fire was not determined. This can occur when there’s not enough evidence to support the determination of a fire cause.
In British Columbia, the province issued a state of emergency in July following multiple fires that were burning larger than 50,000 hectares. The fires caused over 40,000 evacuations.
"For out of province deployment, we sent a total of 1,040 staff members out of province. Some of those staff members went out of province more than once. This year we were definitely assisting British Columbia alot. We started in early July, then later on we started getting many fires in the far north so we had to balance that out," he said.
Out of the 1,040 staff, 997 people went to British Columbia, eight were sent out of province to assist the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, twenty-one were deployed to Manitoba and fourteen people travelled to Alberta to assist Parks Canada.
Ontario deployed 4 CL415 waterbombers, 2 bird dog aircrafts as well as pilots and air attack officers to assist Montana in the United States. As well, a CL415 tanker and birddog were also sent to assist Manitoba.
Firefighting equipment was also sent out of province to assist firefighting agencies in BC and Manitoba. In total: 10,000 lengths of hose, 203 pumps and 2 mobile values protection trailers were sent to British Columbia; and 100 Sprinkler Kits were sent to Manitoba.
Initial financial estimates showed that roughly $118,228.5 was spent on firefighting activites throughout Ontario. This includes money directed related to fire suppression.
In 2017, there were 32 prescribed burns planned, of which 8 took place, burning 484 hectares. The range of objectives for these burns included; oak savannah and tallgrass prairie restoration/maintenance, invasive species control, habitat maintenance, hazard reduction and forest ecological renewal. Additional benefits through staff training and organizational capacity building also resulted from the planning and execution of the prescribed burns in the province this year.
As residents currently deal with low temperatures, high winds and snow in the region, Scott noted that fire safety should still be in the forefront of resident's minds, if they're burning.
"Even though it's the winter, you should always follow safe outdoor fire management. Just ensure that you always monitor fires that you have and ensure that they're out," he said.
Moving forward into the new year, staff are in the process of seeing renovations completed to Dryden's Fire Management Centre.
"So as it stands, we're just entering a three year project in Dryden. Moving forward we will be renovating the Fire Management Centre in Dryden," he said.
The construction will include the construction of a new building for the logistics team to do servicing of trailers and equipment. The warehouse where pumps and hoses are stored is in the process of being upgraded. Energy efficiency upgrades are also taking place throughout the building.
Construction started in October, and is expected to last for roughly 2.5 years.
For more information:
Prescribed burns in area
Ontario upgrading Fire Management Centre
Local crews still fighting B.C. fires
Forest fire update
More Fire Rangers sent
Local firefighters still out west
Firefighters sent to B.C.
Smoke forecasted to cover NWO