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Fire season slows, crews head to Montana

BY LINDSAY BRISCOE

As the hottest, driest days of summer wind down, the forest fire hazard for the northwest region was sitting at moderate to low as on Aug. 26 with 20 active fires in northwestern Ontario.

Thirteen of the fires are being monitored, two are being held, three are not under control, and the two in the Red Lake area are under control.

Red 31, Red Lake’s largest fire of the season which sparked over two months ago, is being monitored but has shown no activity since its clean infra-red scan at the beginning of the month. Red 67, about 45 km southwest of Red Lake, started Aug. 23 and is about four hectares in size.

“Basically we have a moderate fire hazard in the Red Lake area but there are pockets of dry areas so we’ve been picking up lightning-caused fires. Red 67 was a lightning-caused fire,” says Fire Information Officer Debbie Maclean. “Even though we may have really cloudy, humid weather we still are keeping an eye on where the strikes are because as soon as it clears it is possible that a smoldering lightning strike could pop up as a fire.”

Maclean says fire management personnel use a lightning locator system which is programmed to register cloud to ground strikes.

“The electromagnetic wave is different for cloud to ground versus cloud to cloud. So we can actually track where the strikes are occurring. They’re mapped out and we overlay the rain that we pick up on our weather stations with the lightning and track that not only day to day but also over a period of time – like a five day period minimum,” she adds.

As of Monday, a hundred and nine people, including 100 FireRangers from across the province, five Strike Team Leaders, and four overhead staff were deployed to Montana to help with fight forest fires there. Red Lake sent two crews and one Strike Team Leader.

International deployments such as this are managed by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre in Winnipeg, MB and the National Interagency Fire in Boise, Idaho.

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