Relentless wildfires have devoured 3.3 million hectares of land across Canada so far this year — roughly 10 times the normal average for the season.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to journalists about ongoing efforts to help. He said requests for federal assistance from Alberta, Nova Scotia and Quebec have been approved.
Ontario’s wildland fire season extends from April 1 to Oct. 31. Officials with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are closely monitoring a growing number of active fires in the province’s north, particularly the northeast.
“Just to give you an idea, the last 24 hours alone, we’ve discovered 21 new fires across the province, and that now puts us to 159 active fires provincially,” said Shayne McCool, fire adviser with Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) Monday afternoon.
Currently, the largest active forest fire in the province is Sioux Lookout 7. At 9,285 hectares, the first is burning north of Cat Lake First Nation.
Another fire being closely watched is Wawa 3. Photographs posted to social media by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Northeast Region show a mass of dark, imposing clouds over a road.
It currently covers 6,810 hectares and remains out of control. An implementation order was put in place over the weekend, restricting travel in the area.
“Folks that are travelling in the White River area, I would just advise them to have a look at our website,” said McCool.
As of Monday afternoon, there were 31 active wildland fires burning across the northeast. Twenty-one remain out of control, four are being held, one is being observed, and four are under control.
Searing hot, tinder-dry conditions, similar to what was seen in western Canada, has only worsened the situation in Ontario.
McCool said over the last week, a number of new starts were recorded, due to lightning strikes.
Near Centennial Lake, residents have had to contend with the fire known as Pembroke 1. It started on Sunday and has grown quickly in size. It is now listed at roughly 50 hectares and out of control.
“We do have some fire ranger crews that are working closely with the fire department on scene in that area, and the Township of Greater Madawaska, and the OPP,” said McCool.
As of Sunday, a 24-hour evacuation notice was issued for some seasonal residents. However, that has since been extended an additional 48 hours to June 7 at 12:30 p.m., pending any situational changes.
Canada currently has partnerships with countries such as Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. Calls for reinforcements have already been answered by the international community.
“Right now, Canada is sitting at a national preparedness level of five,” said Marieke deRoos with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).
“This means that wildland fire activity is significant in one or more jurisdictions, and firefighters and equipment in every jurisdiction in Canada is put to use.”