While the fire hazard index was only “low” in the district as of Tuesday, the forest and grass fire situation could heat up quickly if there isn’t more precipitation this spring.
Harrold Boven, fire operations supervisor with the local Ministry of Natural Resources, said yesterday the MNR’s weather stations in the Fort Frances District are up and running now—giving fire management the means to quickly assess fire hazard conditions.
The MNR also has hired its crew leaders for the season, who now are undergoing training, and is in the process of hiring crew bosses.
“We’re trying to be proactive so we can be ready to respond if we have to,” remarked Boven.
About 10 fires have been reported in the West Fire Region since April 1, most of which were man-caused brush or shore lunch blazes.
“Right now, we don’t want to see any burning during the day. With the warm weather we’re seeing, people have to exercise caution,” Boven warned.
While it’s impossible to know exactly what the long-term forecast is, said Boven, current conditions could quickly take a turn for the worse if we get no rain.
“We’ve been assessing what kind of snowfall we had this winter and it’s one-third to one-half what we normally have,” he noted. “Just talking to residents, wells seem to be lower, there’s little flowing water in the bush.
“There’s frost in the ground, but with the warm weather we’re having this week, that’ll be gone.
“We’re going to have to keep a close eye on the weather going into the weekend,” Boven added.
The fire season started in a similar fashion last year, with a cool March giving way to a dry April and May, which saw a handful of lightning-caused brush fires.
The 2002 season, which ended Oct. 31, was a little slow in Fort Frances District, which was fortunate for local FireRanger crews who then had time to help battle fires in Oregon, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.