The 2022 forest fire season has been quiet when compared to the record-breaking forest fire season we lived through last year.
In 2021, the province saw a record 1180 fires reported that burned well over 770,000 hectares. Crews with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry spent a brutal summer working to slow the fire's advancement while several communities, including Red Lake and Wabaseemoong Independent Nation, were put on evacuation notice.
Thankfully those communities were safe and a cooler fall allowed crews to get a handle on the record-breaking forest fire year in the province.
"In 2021, parts of the northwest saw no significant rainfall for six to eight weeks in a lot of places, so the resulting drought conditions caused the soils to be three to four times more receptive to lightning fires than average," said MNRF Fire Information Officer, Chris Marchand.
"This year we've had a good amount of lightning, but we just don't have those same drought conditions in the soil that allows those lightning fires to smolder underground and eventually emerge on the surface," added Marchand.
2022 has been a stark comparison due in large part to the wetter than normal year the region has experienced. So far this year, a total of 210 forest fires have been reported in Ontario, 59 in the northwest region, that have burned a total of 2,434.2 hectares.
Marchand says that the sheer amount of rain and how regularly it's fallen haven't allowed the forest fire hazard to rebound for any significant length of time.
"We just haven't had that long of a window of opportunity for sources of ignition on the landscape, those being mainly people or lightning-generated wildland fires, before the next weather system comes in and lowers the hazard.
Even though this season has been quiet, it's not close to breaking any records.
"Slower years such as the one that we're experiencing are not that uncommon. Even in the past 20 years, we've seen multiple seasons that had less fire on the landscape than this year," Marchand noted.
When crews aren't fighting fires in the region, they are undergoing training, working on outreach programs, and pitching in where needed.
"Fire Rangers have helped filled sandbags here in the region, helped clean up storm damage in Ottawa, they've been deployed to the Yukon and quite recently returned from a fire deployment in Manitoba," says Marchand adding that aircraft has been shared with Alberta this year.