Local firefighters with the Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services Branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are looking back at a hectic forest fire season in the region, one of the busiest in over a decade.
The Northwest Region claimed 839 of the provincial total of 1,325 fires, easily outstripping the 10 year average for all fires across the province of 756. The Northwest Region accounted for 213,695 hectares or 77 per cent of the total hectares affected by wildland fire in the province - 276,356 hectares.
The ministry says that fires near remote First Nation communities such as North Spirit Lake, Pikangikum and Sachigo Lake, among others, posed challenges early in the season. The province’s largest fire, Nipigon 30, established itself east of the community of Nibinamik - eventually growing to 32,850.5 hectares.
It was another year of significant forest fire activity in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, which saw over 40 fires burn over 51,000 hectares. These fires were largely left to burn under observation, playing a regenerative role to clean up storm and insect-damaged areas within the park.
In the Kenora district, firefighters fought 146 fires, which burned a total of over 10,000 hectares. Kenora 71 represented the largest suppression effort in the Northwest over the 2018 fire season. A basecamp in Minaki was a staging ground for as many as 25 sustained-attack crews, most visiting from nearby provinces and the Great Lakes States.
Smoke drift moving south from the fire prompted the leadership of Wabaseemoong Independent Nation to declare a state of emergency as well as evacuate 70-80 vulnerable members of the community for several days until air quality conditions improved. The 10,272 hectare fire began July 15 and was declared out September 27.
In the Dryden district, firefighters fought 84 fires, which burned a total of 37.7 hectares. The district’s largest fire of the season was Dryden 71 at 4.4 hectares. The fire was located on the eastern shore of Winnange Lake on August 30 and was declared out September 4.
In the Sioux Lookout district, firefighters fought 167 fires, which burned over 34,000 hectares. Of note, Sioux Lookout 57 was first spotted July 8 and burned 9,689.3 hectares south of Wunnummin Lake. The fire was declared out on September 3.
In a year marked by large, problematic forest fires burning relatively close to populations, properties and major travel corridors in the province’s Northeast Fire Region, a busy though less visible fire season unfolded in the more remote corners of the Northwest Region.
Assistance from out-of-province personnel and aircraft helped local staff and officials carefully manage periods of strain on the region’s available firefighting resources, while crews were concentrated in the Northeast.
For the 2018 fire season, Ontario provided 101 support staff and 407 FireRangers to help with fire situations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Ontario received 799 forest firefighters and 128 support staff and/or equipment from Saskatchewan, Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, British Columbia, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Parks Canada and New Brunswick during the 2018 fire season.
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