THUNDER BAY – Though there has been more forest fire activity so far this year than in 2014, it hasn’t been above average.
So far in 2015, there have been 286 forest fires in the province which have burnt more than 28,000 hectares. The 10-year provincial average for the first three months of the forest fire season is 372 blazes spanning more than 34,000 hectares.
Tim Neufeld, fire operations technician in Thunder Bay, said there are 57 active forest fires in Northwestern Ontario.
“Compared to last year we’re obviously significantly busier than what we had for fires,” he said. “I would say it’s more on average to what we’re used to.”
At time this time last year there had only been 131 fires, burning 3,200 hectares. That was the lowest number of fires in a season in 50 years.
It was a slow start to the season but many new wildfires have started in the past week, primarily due to dry conditions.
“With the weather we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of lightning caused fires, particularly in the far north areas of our region,” Neufeld said.
There are only two actives fires located in the Thunder Bay District, both within Wabakimi Provincial Park.
The vast majority are currently burning blazes are in the northern areas of the Red Lake, Nipgion and Sioux Lookout Districts.
Of those 57 fires, 42 are being observed and monitored while crews are attempting to fight and suppress 15.
“We have plans in place for many of our larger provincial parks, such as Wabakimi, where we’ve denoted areas we can safely let fire burn with the benefit of allowing fire to burn on the landscape and achieve some ecological objectives,” Neufeld said.
“Prior to the fire season we’ve assessed different areas that are easier for us to manage fires within those areas and take their natural course.”
The largest forest fires are Nipigon 17, which is being observed at 15,500 hectares, Nipigon 23 which is being monitored at 4,670 hectares and Red Lake 16 which is under watch at 3,100 hecatres.