Wildfire battles becoming more costly

May 6, 2022

By: The Working Forest Staff

THE CHRONICLE JOURNAL — The cost of fighting Ontario forest fires last year during one of the hottest summers in memory is in the stratosphere, even more than previous seasons that were similarly rife with fires.

The province finally released the 2021 tally of $239 million on Wednesday, following months of requests for the figure by Northwestern Ontario news media outlets, including The Chronicle-Journal.

Normally, an estimate is released in late fall. It wasn’t clear why the province chose to release the figure for 2021 on the first official day of the election campaign, although it did follow yet another request by The Chronicle-Journal.

Meanwhile, on Monday the province’s Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services department recorded the first fire of this season — a small blaze about 20 kilometres north of Dryden at Anaway Lake.

Most forest fires at this time of year are caused by human activity, the department says.

In 2018, the final bill for fighting fires across the province came in at just over $208 million. The figure for 2011, another bad year, was nearly $223 million.

Over the past few years, the province has provided base funding of $100 million for battling forest fires

Last year’s fire season was notable for setting a new record for the amount of land burned — nearly 8,000 square kilometres compared to the previous record of just over 7,000 square kilometres in 1995.

The 2021 forest fires caused 3,400 people, mostly in the remote north, to be evacuated.

The largest fire last year was a 2,000-square-kilometre blaze northwest of Kenora. It broke out at the beginning of June and wasn’t declared under control until mid-October.

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