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2023 Forest fire season higher than average

By Randy Thoms Sep 14, 2023 | 8:04 PM

A forest fire burns in the Kirkland Lake-Timmins fire district in this undated photo provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The forest fire season in Ontario is turning out to be slightly higher than the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s 10-year average.

There have been 699 fires. The 10-year average is 669.

This year’s blazes have scorched over 439,000 hectares.

Speaking for a parliamentary committee, Assistant Deputy Minister Tracy Mill says they are noticing some differences as to when the first fires of the season are breaking out.

“We do see that our fire seasons, both here in Ontario and nationally, and even globally, sometimes start earlier in the season and go a little bit longer. So, the length of time of the season may have changed in sometimes the intensity or frequency of fires. Some seasons (are) with low fire reports and some seasons with higher escalated fire reports,” says Mill.

The season does not officially end until October 31, so the cost to fight this year’s fires has not yet been calculated.

The MNRF does acknowledge it faced some personnel challenges.

About 660 fire rangers, broken into 142 crews, were involved in fire suppression efforts this year.

Mill says they go through a shortage of senior staff.

“We hired as many fire Rangers as we possibly could in terms of people who applied to the program and those who returned to our program. In some instances, we didn’t have as many of our returning senior crew leaders, which meant that the number of the actual crews, which are a composition of usually about four people. That’s where you’re seeing the reduction in the numbers,” says Mill.

To accommodate the shortfall, Mill says some crews had as many as five and six members. Most fire crews are made up to three or four fire rangers.
“What we did in order to ensure maximum availability of fire crews is move to some crews that had four members, some that had five and then some that had six to ensure that we were able to provide as many opportunities as possible so that we also continue to develop the skills and experiences of our Fire Rangers for them to take on positions in subsequent seasons,” says Mill.

The financial cost of this fire season has not yet been calculated because the season is not over.

The official end of the season is October 31.