The 2020 wildland fire season ends tomorrow. It puts an end to a season well below Ontario’s 10-year average in a total number of fires and total affected area, but one which posed new risks due to COVID-19.
“This season has truly been like no other and our fire rangers have been on the front lines, facing unprecedented challenges with professionalism, dedication, and courage,” said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “I’m proud of the way we rose to the challenge and adapted our strategies to protect the health and safety of people and communities.”
The Northeast Region saw 241 fires in 2020, with a total of 1 669 hectares burnt. There were 607 fires across the province. The province’s 10-year average is 870.
The government increased annual base funding for emergency forest by over $30 million. They say the severity of the fire season fluctuates greatly each year, and this increase will help Ontario manage the variability by supporting fire response activities.
The province’s approach to fire management this year placed an even stronger focus on early detection, combatting detected fires with full force in order to keep them small and implementing a Restricted Fire Zone across Ontario’s legislated fire region from April 3 to may 16, reducing the risk of preventable human-caused fires.
Shayne McCool, Fire information Officer for the North East region, says that the increased funding and the new approach helped, but so too did the weather.
“This year… we didn’t have a lot of days without precipitation. A lot of our areas were able to cool off before extreme fire conditions were set in place,” he said.
Ontario is an internationally recognized leader in wildland fire management. The province relies on over 1,300 fire rangers and support staff, as well as dozens of pilots and engineers, to coordinate the protection of 90 million hectares of Crown land in Ontario.