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Region sees big drop in hectares lost to fire

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The West Fire Region saw an average number of fires this year but the number of hectares consumed by flames is well below the average.

Although the fire season doesn't officially end until Oct. 31, the region had 732 fires in 1997. While that's about normal, what isn't is the number of hectares burned—just 3,891.1 this year compared to the average of 223,000.

Fort Frances District has seen 122 fires to date, consuming 50 ha of bush. Red Lake District lost the most hectares (1,897.5) while Sioux Lookout had the most fires (161).

Dryden District had the least number of fires (52) and the fewest hectares burned (25.3).

The Ministry of Natural Resources believes the dramatic drop in the number of hectares lost this year is because there were no large project fires—those in remote locations that aren't attacked unless they threatened people or properties (such as the large lightning fires that plagued the northern part of the region last summer).

And although lightning-caused fires kept firefighters busy in June, July and August with more than 300 starts, there were few such fires in the spring.

Still, human-caused fires were up this year, accounting for 43 percent of the total fires started. This year, 100 fires were listed as recreation-caused, 33 were resident-caused, 25 railway-caused, 28 industrial forest-caused, three industrial other, 26 incendiary, 82 miscellaneous, and seven unknown for a total of 314.

Due to the high number of human-caused fires and the extreme drought conditions that existed in the southern portion of the region this summer, the MNR was forced to place restricted fire zones for several weeks this summer—once in June and again in August.

A reminder that until the fire season is officially over next Friday, those burning brush and grass cannot start their fires until two hours before sunset and must extinguish them no later than two hours after sunrise.

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