CBC NEWS — Northwestern Ontario, from the Manitoba boundary as far east as Geraldton, is facing a higher-than-normal forest fire risk this summer, according to scientists with Natural Resources Canada.

The long-term weather model suggests the summer of 2020 will be hot and dry across much of the region, especially around Kenora, Red Lake and Sioux Lookout, explained Richard Carr, a wildland fire research analyst with the Canadian Forest Service.

Spring was slow to come to the area and the Arctic air mass that settled in and kept temperatures cooler than average also increases the hazard, he said.

“Arctic air tends to be very dry, especially at this time of year, so we haven’t had much precipitation and it’s probably going to leave a fairly dry forest out there and that makes it more conducive to fire right away, and if you have a warmer and drier summer following that, the could lead to potential problems,” he said.

Carr noted that it is difficult to predict what effect, if any, the pandemic and physical distancing may have on the potential for forest fires this year.

“It’s kind of a tough question to answer because we don’t know how each area is going to react to this,” he said.

Fire ban already in effect in many places

A number of provinces and territories restricted open burning and recreational activity in the forest in an effort to reduce human-caused fires, at least in the spring.

But, “over the summer, it’s a different question, we have to just see how each province and territory reopens things.”

However, if people are spending extra time at home because of the pandemic, he recommends taking the opportunity to clean up your yard.

“If people do have more time on their hands this year, especially if they live outside the urban areas, it’s probably a good time to take a look around the property, make sure there’s no flammable material up against their homes or close to their homes, following Fire Smart guidelines, just to make properties a bit more resistant to fire.”

The Ontario government declared a large section of the northwest a restricted fire zone on May 23, while the City of Thunder Bay has again temporarily banned all outdoor fires.

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