No charges have been laid yet in the two fires that were believed to be deliberately set April 1 in Dawson Township, north of Rainy River, but the Ministry of Natural Resources is saying it has a few leads.
“We are pursuing a few leads basically from our initial investigation on April 1,” said Howard Dupuis, sector response officer at the Fort Frances Fire Management Headquarters.
“We’ve ruled out every other possibility [but arson],” he added.
The fires were set along Highway 600. Calls were picked up by the regional duty officer between midnight and 2 a.m. last Wednesday.
Dupuis and the rest of the local department had to be called in around 5:30 a.m. He said at first it seemed like an “April Fool’s” joke since several centimeters of snow were on the ground in Fort Frances.
“But Rainy River hadn’t received any of the snow we did until later that day,” he remarked, noting the snow started to fall there around 11 a.m.
The Rainy River Fire Department first responded to the blazes, and were assisted by the OPP and a senior fire officer from the MNR in Fort Frances.
At daybreak, additional MNR personnel from here were brought in, as well as a bird-dog aircraft from the ministry’s fire management centre near Dryden.
While the ensuing snowfall knocked the fires down quite a bit, much of the damage already had been done.
Fort Frances Fire #5 burned north and south of Wilson Creek Road to a size of 700 ha while Fort Frances Fire #6 reached 160 ha, burning between Atwood-Worthington Road #1 and Government Road northeast of Rainy River.
“The fire on Wilson Creek Road had a flame front of about one mile to a mile-and-a-half,” Dupuis said. “It’s a heavy grassed area, swampland and peat. Good for burning when it’s dry.”
No one was hurt in the fires although one came close to five homes and disturbed a herd of 150 buffalo.
Anyone with information on these fires is asked to call the MNR enforcement section in Fort Frances at 274-5337, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.