DRYDEN, Ont. — Prolonged drought conditions in Northwestern Ontario were a key factor in the 2021 wildfire season resulting in more forest burned in Ontario than in any previous year for which records exist.
The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry reports that just shy of 793,000 hectares of forest was destroyed.
This shatters the previous annual record of about 714,000 hectares, which was established in 1995.
The biggest contributor to the devastation was a 200,000-hectare fire dubbed Kenora 51, near Wabaseemoong Independent Nation.
It was one of the largest fires in Ontario's history.
In a summary of the fire season Monday, the ministry noted that the hot and dry conditions this summer created drought conditions not seen in the Northwest in close to 50 years.
In response to the frequency and the size of the outbreaks, the province issued an emergency order for Northwestern Ontario and summoned help from other jurisdictions including other provinces, the U.S., Mexico and Australia.
The assistance included nearly 500 fire personnel and 25 aircraft.
In a statement Monday, Minister Greg Rickford expressed thanks to the 2,500 personnel involved in firefighting this season including Ontario's fire staff and their Canadian and international partners.
He said Ontario's fire rangers and support staff "demonstrated extraordinary courage and dedication," adding "They have made Ontario proud as they adapted to unprecedented challenges to protect our natural resources, at-risk communities and businesses."
There were 1,198 fires across the province this year, 43 per cent more than the 10-year average of 839 fires.
However, 1976 still holds the record for the most fires in a season – 2,092.