Province of Ontario had a relatively tame fire season

The Province of Ontario has provided a summary of their 2014 wildfire season.


Ontario’s forest fire season runs from April 1 to October 31 each year. Although our fire crews were prepared for the worst, this fire season was relatively tame in contrast with historical fire seasons. Fire activity is closely associated with weather patterns and most of Ontario saw many days of precipitation and overcast skies throughout the summer. As a result, 2014 recorded the lowest number of fires and the ninth lowest amount of area burned since 1960. With minimal fire activity in Ontario, our crews had the opportunity to gain valuable experience assisting other provinces where there was significant fire activity and also keeping up their training and participating in public outreach events.

Northeast Region Forest Fire Fighting Activities

The Northeast Fire Region (NER) recorded 173 of those fires and 4,166.1 ha burned. Most of the area burned (4,044.6 ha) was in the area north of Cochrane and Hearst where fires are managed more for ecological benefits and many are monitored until they go out naturally. The remaining 121.5 ha were spread across the rest of the NER. These fires were generally held to under 2 ha due to quick responses and effective firefighting methods. A breakdown of the provincial statistics from this year as well as those of recent years is provided at the provincial summary link at the bottom of this page.

Fires either occur naturally due to lightning strikes, or as a result of human activities. This season 102 of the total 173 fires were caused by people. These human caused fires resulted in approximately 115.5 ha being burned. Seventy-one of the fires this season were caused by lightning and approximately 4,050.6 ha burned. Only one suppressed fire in the region spread beyond 30 ha and no large fires occurred this year.

The NER had an opportunity to conduct a prescribed burn (PB) in collaboration with Nipissing University and Nipissing Forest Research Management this season. “North Bay 1” was a controlled burn conducted in Phelps Township. This PB was completed in order to promote the growth of both natural and planted red oak by using fire as a tending method. This burn will be conducted annually weather permitting.

The region is also busy completing inspections for the small scale PBs conducted by the forest industry. Our staff also took part in large scale PBs in the southern portion of Ontario with an aim to stimulate growth.

Highlights From Around the NER

The NER has witnessed many changes this year with the closure of two Fire Management Headquarters’ (FMH) and the renovation of others. While the closing of Kirkland Lake attack base and Pembroke attack base has focused resources to strategic locations, other areas are undergoing infrastructure renewal including the Haliburton FMH, Sudbury FMH and NER headquarters.

While the new Haliburton FMH is currently in the process of finalizing details, the NER Regional Forest Fire Management Centre and Sudbury FMH are currently midway through construction. The new building will offer space for support staff, a larger and more modern warehouse area and much needed accommodations for firefighters to complete their daily preparedness requirements. The work in Sudbury for both the NER FMH and headquarters started in February 2014 and is slated to run through May 2016.

Crews were given the opportunity to do some building of their own this season while working together with Ontario’s provincial parks (PP) in an effort to support staff in the completion of some in-park projects. NER FireRanger crews managed to help with projects including building and maintenance and extensive use of chainsaws to remove smaller types of fuel in: Arrow Head PP, Balsam Lake PP, Bon Echo PP, Grundy Lake PP, Killarney PP, Marten River PP, Mikisew PP, Silent Lake PP and Six Mile PP.


Although the province saw fewer fires than on an average year, FireRangers had the chance to take part in many different training opportunities throughout the season. These sessions have given our staff the skills and knowledge to efficiently suppress forest fires for years to come. Aside from our yearly training courses such as the incident command training at levels 3, 4 and 5 that are offered at a provincial level, some NER staff attended training courses to qualify in the safe and efficient operations of the wildland fire engines and other equipment.

FireRanger crews also take part in a daily commit to be fit training program, where FireRangers participate in a fitness regime designed to help reduce workplace injuries and prepare these “occupational athletes” for the strain and rigors of wildland firefighting.

Some of our crews also spent time assisting local fire departments (FD) (Huron Shores FD, Kawartha Lakes FD, Markstay-Warren FD, Nipissing Municipal FD and North Frontenac FD) as well as a local cottage association (Temagami Lakes Cottage Association) in wildland firefighting training and interagency operations. This year, crews based in North Bay completed an in-depth exercise that saw them respond to a simulated Trans-Canada pipeline emergency.

Other Emergency Responses

FireRangers perform many emergency roles within the province aside from firefighting. This season crews located in Haliburton helped out with flooding that took place in Kemptville just south of Ottawa, while crews based in Cochrane lent a hand with flooding in the James Bay community of Kashechewan.

Provincial Synopsis for 2014
October 31, 2014

The 2014 fire season saw the lowest number of fires in more than 50 years according to recorded data, and likely the lowest in the history of the province. It was the ninth lowest for hectares (ha) burned. Provincially we recorded 303 fires at 5,386.5 ha compared to last season with 579 fires and 51,085 ha burned. The ten year average is 1,098 fires at 110,895 ha.

The 2014 statistics are unofficial until all wildfire reports are finalized and a data verification process is completed. The statistics include fires reported throughout the year, not just during the official fire season of April 1 to October 31.

Regionally the 2014 statistics break down to the Northeast Region (NER) with 173 fires burning a total of 4166.1 ha, and the Northwest Region (NWR) recorded 130 fires burning a total of 1,220.4 ha.

Just over half of the forest fires were caused by people, with the remainder caused by lightning. This season 186 of the 303 fires were caused by people with about 242.8 ha of land burned as a result. There were 117 lightning-caused fires and about 5143.7 ha of land burned.

Although fires caused by people can be small, they are often dangerous because they are burning close to other people and their property. Rain was a big factor in keeping our human-caused fires small. Without that the fires had potential to become larger and more threatening.

The final costs for the Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) program for 2014 are not available yet but the 10-year average total cost for forest fire management is $139 million. Year-to-year expenses can vary considerably depending on the number of fires and their severity in a season. Total fire related expenditures in Ontario can range from $75-231 million or more for a full fire season.

This year we expect to recover about $8 million from our out of province deployments. There are Mutual Aid Agreements to address the financial costs of deploying resources out of province, which includes negotiated rates for aircraft, equipment and manpower to ensure assistance does not become a burden for Ontario.

During the course of the summer and early fall, Ontario provided personnel resources for wildfire management in Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Parks Canada including Incident Management Team (IMT) specialists, Ontario FireRangers and overhead personnel.

In addition, Ontario provided portable relay tanks, power pumps, values protection units and several thousand lengths of hose to British Columbia.

By September when the deployments ended, a total of 1345 FireRangers plus support personnel worked a combined total of 22,309 days. These numbers represent FireRangers, IMT personnel and overhead staff who travelled back and forth on multiple deployments through the summer.

Ontario provided IMTs who were assigned to manage large, complex fire situations in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. The IMTs from Ontario took turns in rotation for the deployments and also had the opportunity to work on national IMTs. Four IMTs went out twice for a total of eight deployments and Ontario staff joined two separate interagency teams in various roles in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

Aviation support was also deployed twice during the 2014 fire season with CL-415 heavy water bombers, air attack birddog aircraft and air attack officers to the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan. In addition, Air Attack was also dispatched to assist our Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact members on wildfires in the United States near our borders on a request from the state of Minnesota.

The benefit of participating in mutual services is that Ontario provides support when needed and in previous years has benefited from import of resources when needed. Mutual Aid Agreements are in place to address the financial costs of deploying resources out of province, which includes negotiated rates for aircraft, equipment and manpower to ensure that assistance does not become a burden for Ontario.

The AFFES program has encountered changes this year including the closure of two fire bases and the renovation of others. While the closing of Kirkland Lake attack base and Pembroke attack base has focused resources to strategic locations, other areas are undergoing infrastructure renewal including the Haliburton and Sioux Lookout Fire Management Headquarters (FMH) and the Armstrong Attack Base. Expansion of facilities is ongoing with the NER Regional Forest Fire Management Centre and the FMH in Sudbury.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.