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‘Red 31’ blazes near Woodland Caribou

By Lindsay Briscoe

With a recent increase in thunderstorm activity in northwestern Ontario, the 2013 fire season that got off to a slow start ramped up quickly last week with nearby fire ‘Red 31’ tying up many of the province’s resources.

As of the morning of July 8, five days after its lightning-induced ignition, Red 31 had taken over about 11,000 hectares of forest approximately 40 km northwest of Red Lake on the northeast tip of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. At that time there were also 19 FireRanger crews, ten Type 2 Sustained Attack Crews, six helicopters and four of the province’s nine CL-415 waterbombers working on the fire.

According to Northwest Region Fire Information Officer Heather Pridham, Red 31 is spreading but her July 8 report did not indicate in which direction.

“The crews are working heavily on the east flank right now which would be the flank where it’s safe for them to get in and really do some work. They’ve been constructing hose line quite a bit. They’ve had quite a few helipads located in there so they can land a helicopter now – which is good news.”

The not-so-good news is crews are dealing with safety hazards associated with severe blow-down in the area.

“That’s storm damaged trees or forest in there. That poses a risk to fire rangers with slips and falls as well as it definitely impedes the progress of work. It’s slow-going, you have to chainsaw your way through it.”

Pridham says wind is pushing the smoke from Red 31 away from the area but that residents may see haziness in the afternoon or early morning until daytime heating lifts the smoke and it blows away.

At the time of press there were no MNR fire restrictions in place. Local communities can impose their own fire bans, however, which residents must follow.

“What we are asking right now is the public be very careful with any source of ignition they have a campfire, shorelunch, fireworks, that sort of thing,” says Pridham. “Right now we have lots of lightning-caused fires but if we start to get an increase in human-caused fires, then we’re tying up resources that could be used elsewhere.”

For information about forest fires in northwestern Ontario call Debbie MacLean: 807-937-7241 or visit www.ontario.ca/forestfire. To report a forest fire call 310-FIRE (3473).

There were also over 40 fires burning in the northwest earlier this week, most of which were in the Red Lake district.

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