The Ministry of Natural Resources declared a Restricted Fire Zone yesterday afternoon, banning all outdoor fires across Northwestern Ontario.
The fire ban—the second the MNR has issued here this summer—came into effect at midnight last night and will remain in place until further notice.
The ban, which encompasses the districts of Fort Frances, Dryden, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Thunder Bay, and Nipigon, was implemented to reduce the risk of human-caused fires while firefighting crews are working at full capacity to battle multiple lightning-caused blazes.
MNR resources have been somewhat depleted due to the fact seasonal staff, many of whom are university and college students, have returned to school—reducing the number of available personnel for firefighting duties.
Campfires may be allowed in organized campgrounds in private and provincial parks that use approved fire pits and meet certain other criteria. Campers are encouraged to check with the owners or operators.
Under the RFZ, people still can use portable gas stoves for cooking and warmth, but are asked to use extreme caution.
Ministry fire staff and conservation officers will strictly enforce the ban on open burning.
People seeking information on the fire situation and the RFZ can call the information hotline toll-free at 1-888-258-8842.
The first RFZ this year was imposed in mid-July and lifted two weeks later.
While some rain is forecast for the far north of the region, little relief is in sight for the rest of Northwestern Ontario, the MNR reported. The fire hazard ranges from “high” to “extreme” across the region.
Three new fires were reported in the region by the end of yesterday, including one each in Fort Frances, Kenora, and Nipigon districts. This brought the total number of active fires to 48 and the year-to-date total to 1,168.
Meanwhile, the Labour Day long weekend was one of the busiest of the year for the MNR Forest Fire Management Program, with more than 120 new fires reported between Friday and Monday.
While most of these were caused by lightning strikes, a number of them were the result of human activity—both industrial and recreational.
Aggressive initial attack on the fires from both ground and air helped to keep them small and brought quickly “under control” or “out.”