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Extreme fire hazard in Ontario

May 30, 2010 — Forest fires continue to burn across northern Ontario.

Currently, about 80 fires are burning in Ontario. The recent blast of summer-like heat has the fire hazard rating at high to extreme for much of northern and eastern Ontario. As a result, some reinforcements have been called in to help fight the flames. Firefighters from two other provinces and one of the territories are lending a hand.

“Fires will ignite pretty much immediately. They'll burn vigorously, and every fire we get will challenge our ground crews and probably require air attack to try and get a handle on,” says Ted Shannon, fire management supervisor in Sudbury.

There are thunderstorms making their way into northern Ontario this week. Major rainfall is needed to prevent the lightning from sparking forest fires. But currently, only showers are in the forecast. Northern Ontario's temperatures have been in the high 20's and low 30s for several days, and it feels hotter with the humidity.

The heat makes firefighting even more difficult than it already is. Shannon says firefighters must stay hydrated and take breaks, but a couple of firefighters in his region have already come close to heat exhaustion.

British Columbia is one of the provinces that has offered a much-needed helping hand to Ontario's fire crews.

Gwen Eamer, provincial fire information officer in British Columbia, says the province recently sent 90 of its firefighters to Ontario.

BC has been on the receiving end of help from other provincial fire crews in the past.

“Last year, we had a lot of crews that were imported into BC to help with a very challenging situation. And we're more than happy to do the same thing for Ontario this year,” Eamer says.

It is difficult to predict what kind of forest fire season British Columbia will have this time.

“The recent rain that we've had in the past several weeks in BC has certainly brought the fire danger rating down. But that being said, it only takes a few days of warm and dry weather to bring the fire danger rating back up, so it's really important that people don't become complacent just because it has been wet,” she says.

Fires are also causing problems in central Quebec right now.

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