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Crews making progress on northwestern Ontario fires


Hot spots show more smoke when the sun shines, making them easier to target
Hot spots show more smoke when the sun shines, making them easier to target

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

August 15, 2011 — Firefighters in northwestern Ontario have stepped up their efforts as cooler weather prevails.

Firefighters have been making good progress on the larger fires
Firefighters have been making good progress on the larger fires

It's been nine weeks since forest fire activity in northwestern Ontario began ramping up. The season is far from over, but the weather has recently allowed crews to make good progress.

“There was some cloud cover and rain a few days ago, and that helped cool the fire behaviour,” said Debbie MacLean, a fire information officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

“In a paradox, the cooler temperatures actually increased the firefighter activity on the fires because we were able to get more advances on the fires.”

During the break in the weather, more firefighters were able to work on the perimeters of the fires, while helicopters dropped buckets of water from above.

However, the cooler weather did pose one challenge, MacLean said.

“When it's really quiet ... hot spots are not visible to the naked eye, so we have to use infrared scanning. That helps us to find the areas that may not be showing,” she explained.

“As it gets sunnier, the hot spots start to show smoke and make themselves visible.”

But last weekend was yet another busy time for firefighters in the region. Roughly 28 fires were confirmed and more are expected.

Ontario's fire season officially ends October 31st, so firefighters are still facing a long battle ahead, especially on some of the larger fires. Two fires, both in the Sioux Lookout area, are burning across more than 100,000 hectares and have uneven perimeters.

“Every day that we make progress shortens that time frame, but when you have a large fire perimeter ... it's a lot of labour-intensive work to make sure there's not a burning ember left on the fires.”

Ontario fires

YearFiresHectares
2010 to date85414,591
2011 to date872609,974

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