Toronto, Canada – A winter of unusually little snow has brought five times thenormal level of forest fires to parts of Central Canada, prompting otherprovinces to fly in extra help, and bringing small scale evacuations of ruralsettlements.
Quebec has already reached a “critical” burn level several timesthis year and is experiencing a five-fold increase in burned land from itsfive-year average, officials said.
“It’s not unprecedented, but in recent years we’ve had much less fireactivity than we’ve seen this year,” said Jacques Nadeau, spokesman for theForest Fire Protection Society of Quebec, which puts out fires for theprovincial government.
In Northwestern Ontario, drought-like conditions in April and May nearlydoubled its 10-year fire average, said regional fire information officer TravisMoffatt.
“We’ve had a very busy spring fire season, and that’s directlyattributable to the very dry forest conditions that we’ve seen,” Moffattsaid from Dryden, Ontario.
This past winter was the second driest on record for Quebec and Ontario,leaving little moisture as the snow melted. Camp fires, sparks from trains andlighting all caused fires.
The Forest Products Association of Canada, which represents Canada’s biggestproducers of forest products, said operations in Ontario and Quebec have seenthe most fire-related shutdowns, but the impact was limited and in line withprevious years.
“In some cases it’s obvious that there will be a loss of wood … but wedo not have the data to know if it will have a big impact on the industry,”said Jacques Gauvin, forestry director for the Quebec Forest Industry Council,which represents producers such as Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. and Bowater Inc. inthe province.
Canada is home to 10 percent of the world’s forests, and the forest industryis the country’s largest industrial employer.