By Lindsay Briscoe
Red 31 has been burning for two weeks, has expanded from 11,000 to over 17,000 hectares in size and remains a regional priority for fire ranger crews but the Ministry of Natural Resources is confident the fire poses no risk to neighbouring communities.
“The fire’s not going to get any smaller. It’s going to get bigger but it’s getting bigger in a good way. It’s not threatening any community. It’s not going to cause any evacuation or anything,” said Northwest Region Fire Information Officer Heather Pridham. “Aerial ignition has occurred on the fire and has been very successful and has allowed the fire to burn to its natural boundaries such as lakes and bays. This has greatly reduced the length of fire line construction the rangers would have to complete in dangerous blow down conditions.”
She points out that rain over the weekend helped calm the fire as well which means it’s now burning along the ground and no longer in tree tops as it was last week.
The upcoming weather forecast is still keeping crews on their toes, however.
“We expect the next couple of days might be challenging especially with hot and sunny moderate winds with the possibility of thunder storms. Any time you have those hot summer days repeatedly that’s when you get into the threat of afternoon thunder storms and with that comes lightning.”
Crews are still working on the eastern flank of the fire but are, at the same time, working their way around the fire.
“Generally you don’t fight a forest fire right from the head. You fight it from the flanks, the sides,” explains Pridham. “We don’t want to put our FireRangers in front of a fire because that’s when you get into those situations when they might become entrapped or the fire overtakes them and then we have major issues. In Ontario our standard is always to fight fires from the flank and work your way around to the front.”
Earlier this week there were 53 crews (212 individual FireRangers) working on Red 31. Pridham says some northeastern Ontario FireRangers have been dispatched to fires in Quebec and the Northwest Territories but northwest crews will stick around the area for the next while. As of Monday, the northwest was experiencing a moderate-high fire hazard with 31 fires burning in the northwest – the majority in the Red Lake area. At about 40 km northwest of Red Lake and occupying 300 hectares, Red Lake 24 was another regional priority at the time.