Always a threat: Forest Fires
For the urban dweller who sees the lakes and forests of Ontario as a weekend diversion it is thrilling when the weather is hot and dry, the longer the better. For those of us who live close by or in the midst of the forests, long periods of hot and dry weather, leaves us threatened and vulnerable to forest fires.
While I enjoy sitting on the veranda swing these days with the warm weather, blue sky with puffy white clouds, watching the hummingbirds darting back and forth and feeding, to the smell of lilacs, I am filled with unease. The weather has been too warm and dry this Spring after a rather warm Winter of drought conditions so that we now have notices going up to tell us that there can be no burning outside. The forests are tinder dry.
There are also limitations on working in the forest. Logger may be barred from working or have their day shortened to from 5:00 AM to 11:00 AM. each day. Sparks from tire chains on machines could start a fire. Similarly a chainsaw chain accidentally hitting a rock could leave a spark which could eventually burst into flame. Needless to say, smokers must be very careful when in the forest. and, campers must cook on stove and not over an open fire.
I knew these restrictions were coming. A good sign was the low level of water in my river. The land has been drying out and our ponds and steams have low levels of water.
It has been several years since we have had a bad forest fire season in Northeastern Ontario. We quite often have seen our forest fire fighters and their equipment going to Western Canada or the United States to help our in those regions.
It seems history has caught up with us. We are at the beginning of an active forest fire season here. There or at least 40 active fires at the moment. This past week the worst of these have been threatening the small city of Timmins (45,000) and the town of Kirkland Lake. (8500). These are major communities north of where I live. They are largely mining communities where gold has been mined for 100 years. There is also some forestry and small marginal farms.Water bombers scooping up water to fight the Timmins # 5 fire.
Luckily we have countless numbers of lakes everywhere so water is plentiful.. When the wind is low and visibility is good these remarkable planes can help to slow and control forest fires.
No one can fight a forest fire head on. They are terrifying events. They can be controlled around the edges until mother Nature begins to bring the fires under control. Then and only then can water bombers and men and women on the ground put out small fires and hot spots until the threat of the fire growing again is overcome. With some fires, only the coming of the snows of Winter can this be achieved.This is the town of Kirkland Lake. I have friends who live here and in nearby Swastika, who I am a little concerned for. With the fire within 3 km of the town, there is a real threat. High heat and winds
could bring the fire into town. Some people have been evacuated and the rest of the town this week is waiting to possibly evacuate on short notice.
This is a close up view of the Kirkland Lake fire.The other large fire in this region is near Timmins. About 1000 people have been evacuated, mostly people outside the city in their camps. The fire is 30 km from the city, but even that gap could be traversed by the fire. There is lots of smoke in the city. This alone might require an evacuation. Nearby the community of the Mattagami First Nation has been
evacuated because of the smoke.. This community is about the size of my local
community. Timmins is still on alert and under threat.
People in the North are very aware of the threats of forest fires. Three of the worst forest fires in Canada have
occurred in this region. The Porcupine Fire of 1911, which saw the town of Porcupine burned to the ground, The Matheson fire of 1916, which destroyed several small
communities of settlers trying to become established along the Ontario Northland Railroad, along a 40 mile front. and the Great Fire of 1922, which destroyed a lot of the towns in the Tri
-town area of Haileybury, Dymond Twp, andNew Liskeard. It is all know as Temiskaming Shores these days. Everyone in this part of Ontario knows of these great tragedies and the threat of forest fire. There are lots of stories that have been told about these fires. Here is one example of the events of the Matheson fire and the Boucher Family.Just a year after the forest fire engulfing the town of Slave Lake , Alberta we are reminded that the days of massive
tragedies from Forest Fires is not over. We wait and pray for rain, low wind and lower temperatures.
Since I first wrote this blog entry our prayers have been answered. We have had rain, low wind and lower temperatures. The Timmins #9 fire is under control although a 100,000 acres was burned over. Also, the Kirkland Lake fire is under control. It burned, I believe, about 8,000 acres. They continue to work on these fire sites, dousing hot spots and preventing any kind of flair up. It is hard, hot, dirty work. Those who evacuated have returned home. No lives were lost and human structure were largely spared.
Fire is a nature part of forest ecology. We work so hard to suppress it in order to save the lives, homes and work of people. Eventually, the forest will return. In a year or so the burned over area will be rich in blueberries. In a five years of so new trees will start growing. Species like the Jack Pine will not release its seeds from its cone unless there is the heat of a fire. The young forest will have lots of browse for moose and deer. The bears will have lots of roots and berries.
The beavers will continue to build their dams and keep water on the land. They will thrive with all the new sapling to feed on. For the forest to fully recover it may take 70 or 100 years. Mother Nature has all the time in the World. Only, we humans will be inconvenienced although those with cottages and camps will still be able to enjoy the lovely lakes even if their forests surrounding are immature. Life goes on.