Ontario burned through and exceeded its 2021 Emergency Fire Funds by $139 million in last year’s forest fire season.
“In the 2021 fire season the province of Ontario spent $239 million in Emergency Fire Funds to help manage the escalated wildland fire situation in the Northwest Region,” says MNRF Fire Information Officer, Chris Marchand.
Marchand notes this is the interim cost, and the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry will release the final cost in September.
The interim funds given each year were well exceeded as a very dry spring and summer in 2021, created a record year for forest fires in Ontario as the province saw 1180 fires burning over 770,000 hectares, which surpassed the previous record set in 1995 of 713,914 hectares.
“At the beginning of each year the ministry is given base funding of $100 million to protect people, property, and natural resources from wildland fires,” adds Marchand.
The biggest fire in the Northwest Region was the Kenora 51 fire that was burning through the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, 120 kilometres north of Kenora, and was listed at over 200,000 hectares in size. Kenora 51 was labeled out of control for most of the summer.
This level of funding at the start is not intended to be the ministry’s total emergency firefighting requirements. Marchand notes if the fire situation worsens the ministry can request additional funding from a contingency fund to bring more resources in to help.
The Province of Ontario welcomed assistance from a total of 496 out of province firefighting personnel in 2021. They ranged from international partners to interprovincial colleagues, working in both firefighting and specialized incident management team roles.
The MNRF said back in December of 2021 that internationally, there was personnel from Mexico, Australia and Wisconsin via the United States, and inter-provincially, Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Quebec, P.E.I., and also the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Sector.
In 2021, wildland fires resulted in the evacuation of approximately 3,400 residents from their homes in seven communities across Ontario’s Northwest Region where most of the fire activity was located.