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Northwestern Ontario Ontario 2015 Fire Season

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Ragged Wood Basket Lake Prescribed Burn
Ragged Wood Basket Lake Prescribed Burn


The forest fire season in Ontario officially ended on October 31, which offers an opportunity to look back over the events and activities that have taken place since the opening of the fire season on April 1.  

The Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services program of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry had 666 fires and 39,312 hectares burned provincially. The Northwest Region of the province witnessed 352 fires and 33,669.0 hectares burned.

Fires either occur naturally due to lightning strikes, or as a result of human activities. This season 163 of the total 352 fires were caused by people. These human caused fires resulted in approximately 644.8 ha being burned. There were 189 fires this season caused by lightning and approximately 33,024.2 ha burned. A breakdown of the provincial statistics from this year as well as those of recent years is provided at the provincial summary link at the bottom of this document.

Southern sectors of the region such as Kenora and Dryden were active early in the season but the fire load decreased as the summer progressed. The fire situation did increase in the far north later and that remained a pattern for most of the summer with rain in the south and high to extreme forest fire hazards in the northern districts of Red Lake, Sioux Lookout and Nipigon.

In the Northwest Region, fires of note were Kenora 05, Kenora 28, Red 17, and the Muskrat Dam Complex (Sioux Lookout 31, 32, 33 and 40). These fires were contentious and required aggressive suppression from AFFES crews and aircraft.

As the summer progressed, Ontario became a significant supporter of Alberta, Yukon, CIFFC in Manitoba, Northwest Territories, British Columbia and the United States when they were challenged with sustained forest fire situations. Ontario sent FireRangers, overhead staff and Incident Management Team specialists in natural disaster management north and west to provide much needed assistance.

A total of 1,079 Ontario FireRangers plus support personnel worked a combined total of 17,788 days out of province. Fire Rangers and overhead staff personnel came back and forth on multiple deployments.
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Despite the significant contribution of resources out of the province, many opportunities within the region for Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services personnel existed to focus on training and providing support on other district work projects.

Local Fire Management Headquarters staff provided education and outreach to students and the public, did base maintenance, fire prevention programming, got involved in Far North initiatives and welcomed new staff coming on while bidding farewell to long-time employees entering retirement.

These activities included the following projects, events and training:
Outreach activities involving prevention education and FireSmart community information on ways to fireproof communities occurred across the region with school visits, trade show exhibits, industry meetings, fire inspections and emergency exercises. Partnerships in training also continued with local fire departments.

Red Lake fire staff continued the innovative partnership with Pikangikum First Nation to train crews to a level matching Type 1 FireRangers. The program saw eight members from the community deployed on fire assignment and involved in training where they learned from staff with 30 years of experience. There were also other training opportunities provided in the far north in regards to fire suppression training.

AFFES has introduced a new Wildfire Management Strategy. This strategy moves away from the previous zone-based approach to one where each wildland fire is assessed and receives an appropriate response according to the circumstances and condition of the fire. This strategy has allowed the ecological benefits of forest fires to occur naturally, as well as the suppression of problematic wildfires when the public or values are at risk.

During the 2015 fire season, fire managers and staff from the Northwest Region conducted three successful Prescribed Burns encompassing 3,416.3 hectares.  The Kenora District completed both the hazard reduction burn in Wabaseemoong First Nation (112.7 hectares) and the Lake of the Woods Conservation Reserve Prescribed Burn (6 hectares).

In the fall, Sioux Lookout Fire Management Headquarters successfully ignited a high complexity prescribed burn.  The Basket Lake Ragged Wood High Complexity Prescribed Burn occurred between September 29 and October 2. The Prescribed Burn was 3297.6 hectares in size in the Sioux Lookout and Dryden districts.

The goals of this prescribed burn were to remove residual slash piles, create more planting sites for trees and reduce the forest fire hazard in the Sioux Lookout and Dryden Districts. The project was a success and met its desired goals. Additional prescribed burns are planned for the future. Public and area stakeholder support for these initiatives is appreciated.

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