Sudbury

Recent forest fire season unlike any Ontario has seen in a decade: MNRF

The cost of controlling wildfires in Ontario last summer is still being calculated. Dry conditions and several lighting strikes caused a large number of wildfires across northern Ontario, in a very short period of time.

1,325 total forest fires charred 275,000 hectares of land during 2018 forest fire season

Ontario Fire Rangers work to extinguish forest fire Parry Sound 33 in July. The fire sparked evacuations along the Key, French and Pickerel Rivers, during the 2018 forest fire season. (Christine Rosche/Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)

The cost of controlling wildfires in Ontario last summer is still being calculated.

Dry conditions and several lighting strikes caused a large number of wildfires across northern Ontario, in a very short period of time.

Firefighters with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR-F) were extremely busy during the 2018 season.

The wildfire known as Parry Sound 33 wasn't the largest fire in the region.

But it did consume over 11,362 hectares, says fire information officer Isabelle Chenard with the MNR-F in the northeast region.

That forest fire burned from mid-July to the end of October, and it took a community effort to extinguish it.

An aerial picture of the forest fire known as Parry Sound 33 when it was still burning. Fire rangers were able to get the fire under control in mid August, however it wasn't fully extinguished until the end of October 2018. (Dan Leonard/Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)

"There were fire rangers and incident management teams that worked on Parry Sound 33. Also other support staff, volunteers, and the community as a whole," Chenard said.

"We all came together to respond to this large scale emergency."

Parry Sound 33 forced the evacuation of residents from several local communities, including Henvey Inlet First Nation, Key River and parts of the Township of Killarney.

There is still an active investigation underway into the cause of Parry Sound 33.

Chenard says 2018 was a fire season unlike anything the province has seen in a decade.

There were a total of 1325 forest fires across Ontario, including almost 550 during the month of July alone. The total fires charred 275,000 hectares of land.

Comparatively, in 2017 there were 776 fires that burned 111,000 hectares.

Because of the size and number of wildfires in Ontario this past summer, the ministry had to import resources from out-of-province.

"Just to give you an idea of the scope, we received 799 forest firefighters from out-of-province and 128 support staff plus equipment from our partner provinces and states and Mexico as well," Chenard said.

The final tabulation of the cost to fight all the forest fires throughout Ontario during the 2018 season likely won't be known until the end of the fiscal year.

However, Chenard says the province received $100 million in emergency firefighting funding, in addition to the $70 million allocated at the beginning of the fire season.

For Chenard, it was the forest fire known as North Bay 69, near Temagami, that stands out in her mind from the 2018 season in northeastern Ontario.

As that fire spread it began to approach the Temagami Marina. Chenard says crews with the MNR-F worked to ensure the flames didn't come near the infrastructure.

"Fire rangers and water bombers worked long hours to protect the community from the blaze and managed to slow the progress before any infrastructure was damaged."