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Americans join fight to put out region's forest fires

For the first this season, Ontario has called in assistance from American firefighters to help bring one of the largest fires ever recorded in the province under control.
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For the first this season, Ontario has called in assistance from American firefighters to help bring one of the largest fires ever recorded in the province under control.

Throughout the past few days, more than 40 new fires have started in the Northwest region with more expected throughout the week. About 20 new fires started on Tuesday, bringing the total number of active fires to 140.

More than 615,000 hectares of forest has gone up in flames, the third biggest blaze Ontario has seen in 50 years. More than 2,000 fire fighters, some coming as far as British Columbia, have already arrived to help. 

But with all their efforts, they still couldn’t bring the fires under control.

Art Osborne, provincial information officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources, said for the first time this season they had to call fire fighters from Minnesota to come and help.

“Two fire crews from Minnesota will be joining our efforts this week,” Osborne said. “We have arrangements with our neighbourhood states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This is the first time that we made a request and the first time that they have been able to respond.

They will be joining fire fighter colleagues from across Canada who are currently all in Northwestern Ontario.”

He added the first wave of firefighters from British Columbia returned home and a second has arrived to replace them.

Forecast conditions continue to be good news for fires and bad news for firefighters. Osborne suspected that there could be as many as 20 new fires by Wednesday.

Even with all the additional help, he said the real decider in this battle against the fires will be the weather.

“Mother Nature will decide when we turn the tide,” he said. “In the short term, Mother Nature is saying more weather similar to what we have experienced in the last week. That’s hot and dry conditions with temperatures in the mid-20s.”