THUNDER BAY -- This year marked the slowest forest fire season the province has seen since 1960.
In the Northwest region, there were 130 recorded fires and 1,200 hectares burned; in Thunder Bay, there were just 15 fires compared to 36 last year.
“It was a pretty slow year here locally in Thunder Bay but really year to year you never know what to expect so we’re always trying to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Evan Evans, a fire operations technician with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The quiet season was the result of a wet spring and Evans said how busy a season is depends on weather patterns.
A very dry 2011 caused the worst forest fire season on record with more than 600,000 hectares of forest destroyed by more than 1,300 fires.
The fires that summer also caused more than 4,000 people to be evacuated from 11 northern communities.
While it was slow in the Northwest region, that wasn’t the case in western Canada so the MNR sent personnel and equipment to aid in the wildfire management in Alberta, B.C. and the Northwest Territories.
A season like this one has its benefits and disadvantages, said Evans.
“It gives us a little bit more time and we can more efforts into extra training like the municipal fire departments or the forest industry,” he said, adding it also gives them time to work on regional projects.
But a slow fire season also means people can become complacent.
“You’re not on your top game. The more fires we suppress, it’s the best training you can get. It just makes us better,” said Evans.
“If it’s a slow season, we don’t get the hands-on training we need.”