More than 60 forest fires burning in northwest as of Monday
Fire hazard remains high to extreme; lightning the cause of several fires, AFFES says
Lightning was the cause of several forest fires reported in the northwest over the course of about the last week, the province's Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) agency said.
"Currently, the forest fire hazard across the northwest region is predominantly high to extreme," said Jonathan Scott, fire information officer with AFFES.
Some areas are more moderate in terms of hazard, but those are places that received recent rainfall, Scott said.
"The rain was really, really scattered throughout the northwest region," he said. "In some areas there was large amounts of rain, whereas others very close by, there wasn't about it at all."
As of Monday, Scott said there were more than 60 fires burning in the region, with a dozen being listed as not under control.
One fire of note is Kenora 51, which is burning in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, and was initially reported about a month ago. It's since grown to more than 22,200 hectares.
Scott said an incident management team, which oversees fire suppression efforts, has been assigned to Kenora 51.
A restricted fire zone is in place for the Kenora, Fort Frances and Dryden districts, as well as the southern portions of the Sioux Lookout and Red Lake districts. The agency said outdoor fires are banned in those areas due to extreme fire hazard.
Air quality warnings in effect
Scott warned of smoke drifting throughout the northwest, due to the many forest fires burning in the region.
Air quality warnings have been issued by Environment Canada for many parts of the region — including Thunder Bay, Kenora, Dryden, Fort Frances, Ignace, Pickle Lake, Nipigon, Marathon, Sioux Lookout, and surrounding areas — due to the smoke.
Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng said northwesterly winds have caused the fire smoke to spread.
Cheng said the smoky conditions, along with hot temperatures, are challenging for people with breathing difficulties and other factors that make them vulnerable.
"Not only does this smoke have a health impact, but also the heat as well. It's really a one-two punch unfortunately," he said.
Cheng said there is expected to be a shift in wind direction on Tuesday, which should improve air quality in the region.
Over 500 fires across Ontario
While the 2021 forest fire season — which began in April — has been an active one, Scott said the actual number of hectares burned so far this year is below the 10-year average.
So far this year, 502 fires have been reported across Ontario, which have burned just over 77,900 hectares.
The 10-year average for the same time period is 341 fires and about 93,400 hectares burned, Scott said.