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Fire ban could be expanded

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A decision on whether to expand the restricted fire zone to the rest of the West Fire Region will be made sometime today, along with how long the ban will remain in effect.

A restricted fire zone has been in effect for a large area east of Highway 502 to Lake Nipigon and north to the CN rail line since last Friday.

The Ministry of Natural Resources tentatively had scheduled to lift the fire ban tomorrow. But with 20 new fires popping up yesterday alone, many of them in them in the Fort Frances District, the chances of that look slim to none.

"I really can’t say what the decision will be," noted Debbie MacLean, fire information officer at the MNR’s Fire Management Centre in Dryden.

"If the hazard persists, we’re definitely looking at continuing with what we have now," she added.

"We had a flurry of fire activity [Monday]," noted Matt Myers, fire management supervisor for the Fort Frances District.

"We are not having out-of-control problems but we are expecting more fires to show up," he added. "We’re planning for a very unsettled week."

Myers noted the fire ban east of here had put a lid on recreational fires, giving fire crews some relief. But what is really needed is large amounts of rain, not just what’s in in scattered thundershowers.

"The showers and thundershowers we experience now are more of a pain than a blessing," he explained. "We need a soaking rain."

"We did get some rain three days ago but the days in between had dried it out," MacLean noted. "Some change in the weather is forecasted for Saturday but that’s too far away to bank on."

Another bit of good news is that many of the new fires of late, most of which were caused by lightning strikes, only grow in size from 0.1-1.0 ha, keeping the burned areas small and the fires short-lived.

"They’re hitting them heavy with air attack and ground attack. Many of them are being declared ‘out’ in 12 -24 hours," MacLean said.

"We are not having control problems," echoed Myers. "We’ve got constant detection and air attack."

Despite the MNR’s ability to keep the fire situation under control, Myers warned residents to use extreme caution when dealing with open fires in areas not under the ban.

"[And] if conditions persist, we’ll have to take a hard look at expanding the restricted fire zone," he warned.

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