Thanks to a $20 million investment over the past two years, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Sudbury Fire Management Headquarters have been able to better meet the mandate of fighting and controlling forest fires across the region.

“It allows us to do our jobs a lot more seamlessly,” said Shayne McCool, a fire information officer for the ministry’s Northeast Fire Region.

The upgraded and expanded centre at the Sudbury Airport, which hosts the Sudbury Fire Management Headquarters and the Sudbury Forest Fire Management Centre, had its grand opening Tuesday, Aug. 10.

But McCool said region’s 18 fire crews – with four members each – and the support staff who help them fight forest fires from Parry Sound to the area just south of Timmins, have been working out of the facility since construction began two years ago.

The investment has allowed the MNRF to expand its facilities at the Sudbury Airport, and purchase an aircraft hangar to accommodate the iconic CL-415 water bombers.

The ministry has nine of the large yellow aircraft across Ontario. On Wednesday three were stationed in Sudbury due to the high fire risk in the region.

“We have seen very high drought in some areas of the province this summer,” McCool said.

On Wednesday the MNRF reported there were 26 active forest fires in northeastern Ontario.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas spoke at the opening ceremony and praised the upgraded centre for the service it provides in the region.

“We know we will continue to have hundreds of forest fires. They happen every year and I can’t see the day where they won’t be happening,” she said.

Gélinas added it’s important the region’s forest fire management services be properly equipped to keep fires from spreading to populated parts of Northern Ontario.

Greater Sudbury Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer also attended the opening ceremony, and said he was impressed with the facility.

Sizer said things have come a long way from the time when fire towers were the first line of defence to alert the MNRF about a forest fire.