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VIDEO: Talking water bombers and weather with the MNR at Sudbury Airport

Fighting forest fires a bit like heading into battle

Five hundred and thirty-five support staff and firefighters have been brought in to help control forest fires in the North. 

And while those personnel are spread throughout the regions where fires are burning, there is a concentration of personnel and equipment at Sudbury Airport, in the form of both air traffic and the presence of support staff.

Shane McCool, an Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry information officer with the Northeast Region Forest Fire Management Centre, which is based out of Sudbury Airport, said the logistics involved in battling the fires can't be underestimated. It's not unlike preparing for battle. There is equipment and people to muster, supply lines to set up and maintain, attack plans and defensive strategies to draw up.

"We do have a lot of support staff that you see around the airport facilities, a lot of our logistics staff that are helping with various activities around supporting forest firefighting activities," McCool said. "Things like simply as feeding us become huge when we get into an elevated activity like this where we're working long hours."  

CL-415 water bombers are a provincial resource that are moved to priority areas on a case-by-case basis. A trio of water bombers and a handful of helicopters were on the tarmac this week in Sudbury while spoke with McCool.

"They'll be moved around according to where the highest hazard is or where they're predicted to be needed more or predicted to be needed in advance of warm weather for example that's coming through," McCool said.

After periods of rain overnight on Tuesday, Wednesday's forecast has called for a return to warm weather. More rain is expected in the region on Thursday. While many concerned citizens have been hoping the rain will help put out the fires, McCool said the greatest effect of wet weather is to give firefighters some breathing room by helping dampen the spread of the blaze.

"With the rain, it does provide some moderate relief in the sense of fire activity being reduced for the day, potentially longer depending on how much rainfall we receive," he said. "Firefighters out in the field will then have an opportunity to make more advancement on the fireline and on the fire perimeter and in extinguishing the fire.

Asked if it's business as usual on rainy days during times when active fires are not yet controlled McCool said, "Absolutely. Our firefighters are out in the field continually advancing with their suppression activities."

On Tuesday, all MNR resources including 253 firefighters and support staff as well as 11 helicopters were moved to the Lady Evelyn fire cluster known as North Bay 72. The fire remains at 27,579 hectares.

At present, Parry Sound 33 is the fourth largest forest fire in Northeastern Ontario, measuring approximately 5,612 hectares. The fire is listed as not under control, but no growth has been reported on the fire since Monday — thanks to humid weather and some rain. Recently, the CBC reported some workers building a massive windfarm at Henvey Inlet First Nation, which has been evacuated, connected the cause of the Parry Sound 33 fire to the construction.

McCool said an investigation should get to the bottom of the cause.

"As is the case of every fire in Ontario will be determined through an investigation. We are in the process of investigating the cause of that fire, but at this time the cause of the fire is unknown." 



Allana McDougall

About the Author: Allana McDougall

Allana McDougall is a new media reporter at Northern Life.
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