Ontario’s record-breaking fire season finally on the books

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KENORA – The wildfire season officially ended on October 31st and one thing is clear – 2021 was the worst fire season on record in Ontario.

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A total of 793,325 hectares of forest were burned in the province during the season, surpassing the previous record of 713,914 hectares first set in 1995. Since the figures began recording in 1960, other notable years included 1961 with over 623,000 hectares burned and 1980 with over 560,000 and 2011 with over 635,000.

Notably, the Kenora 51 fire burned a total of 200,667 hectares, surpassing the Sioux Lookout 70 fire approximate total of 140,000 hectares in 2011 to become the largest fire on record in Ontario.

“Kenora 51 accounted for about a quarter of the total acres burned this season,” said Jonathan Scott, chief fire officer, aviation, wildland fire and emergency services in an interview. telephone. “As a single incident, this is a figure well above the ten-year average for the annual total hectares burned in the province, which is 162,846.”

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First discovered on June 8, Kenora 51 was declared under control on October 12 and called on October 31, but not before evacuating the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations.

Other communities that have been evacuated during the season due to fires in the area include Naicatchewenin First Nation, Poplar Hill First Nation, Deer Lake First Nation, Pikangikum First Nation, First Nation of Cat Lake, the North Spirit Lake First Nation and the Municipality of Red Lake. .

In addition to Kenora 51, Red Lake 16 also burned heavily, reaching over 158,000 acres and also surpassing the previous single fire size record in 2011. First discovered on May 29, Red Lake 16 was declared out. service on October 5.

Several interprovincial and international partnerships were needed to fight back the flames, with teams coming from all over the world to help fight the fires. Scott called each additional help “crucial.”

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According to AFFFES, several meteorological factors played into the severity of the fire season, ranging from precipitation to temperature to wind conditions.

“Spring has arrived in the Northwest with a below average winter snowpack, giving an early start to snowless conditions in many parts of the province,” Scott said. “A drier than average May, coupled at times with stronger winds and warmer-than-average temperatures and low humidity, set the stage for a fast and problematic fire season.

“Weather stations near the Manitoba border normally receive 270 to 300 millimeters of precipitation in May, June and July, but several received less than 100 mm, or about 33% of normal precipitation. “

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Scott added that climate change is also at play, resulting in longer and longer fire seasons in Ontario each year. Over the past 50 years, the Ministry of Northern Development, Natural Resources and Forestry has seen rising temperatures, which in turn has resulted in more occurrences of dry lightning and, by extension, more fires of Forest.

“The weather influences the fire season,” Scott said. “Climate change, combined with other factors, is expected to increase the frequency and associated overall risks of forest fires. “

With the 2021 season in the mirror, the MNDNRF is unable to make predictions about next year’s season at this time. As of November 16, there are currently no active fires in the northwest region.

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