Spring’s quick melt makes MNR firefighters nervous

Spring’s quick melt makes MNR firefighters nervous

16 April 2005

published by The Chronicle-Journal

By Bryan Meadows – The Chronicle-Journal

Ministry of Natural Resources fire managers aren’t pushing the panic button just yet, but the region’s forests are becoming increasingly prone to fires.

The forests “are drying up very fast,” fire information officer Deb MacLean said Friday.

“We’ve had a fast snow melt and fires are now an issue,” she said.

The fire hazard was very low a week ago, but “it’s quickly escalating” into the mid- to high range, she said.

“One hundred per cent of the dead grass (and other forest debris) is highly flammable.”

The West Fire Region, which stretches from about Marathon to the Manitoba border, has had eight fires over the last two weeks, with seven of those occurring in the past three days.

The fires were all small and occurred in southern areas of the Kenora, Fort Frances, Thunder Bay and Nipigon districts.

Most were caused by people undertaking the “traditional spring activity of burning grass,” MacLean said.

On Thursday, MNR fire crews assisted a volunteer fire department in fighting a fire near Shabaqua west of Thunder Bay.

Crews helped prevent the blaze from entering the bush, MacLean said, adding that a structure was lost but she couldn’t immediately confirm reports that it was a barn.

Burning of grass, brush and forest debris is allowed only in the two hours preceding sunset and the two hours after sunrise. If it’s windy, don’t burn, officials say.

MacLean explained that burning is not allowed during the day because mid- to late afternoon carries the highest potential for a fire spreading into nearby bush.

Meanwhile, the region’s 114 four-person fire crews are returning in stages and will be in place by the second week of May.

MacLean has offered no predictions about fire activity this spring and summer.

Speculation is that this fire season won’t be as quiet as last year’s, which had a record-low 210 fires burning 1,360 hectares. The West Fire Region’s 10-year average number of fires is 760 per year, with 180,169 hectares of forest burned.

The ministry has an air arsenal of seven CL-415 waterbombers and two Twin Otter waterbombers, as well as two fire trucks used to attack brush and grass fires burning along roads.

Source: http://www.chroniclejournal.com/story.shtml?id=26722 


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