Battling one of the worst fire seasons, Ontario commits millions more to the fight

Dry conditions and frequent lightning have led to one of the province’s worst fire seasons, prompting the Ontario government to spend an extra $100 million to battle the blazes.

“This is an additional amount of money to be injected into our fire system,” Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Jeff Yurek told the Star in a telephone interview Friday, on top of the $70 million in base funding. The additional money was announced by the province on Wednesday and will be used for equipment, supplies and extra staff.

“The fire season usually goes to the end of October — we needed to make sure that we had enough resources available to continue our efforts.”

Yurek said this season is shaping up to be one of the worst in Ontario’s history due to a combination of dry conditions, thunderstorms and wind.

Just this week, firefighting crews gained the upper hand against a blaze known as Parry Sound 33, located about three hours north of the GTA, just west of Highway 69.

“Parry Sound 33 has been upgraded to ‘being held,’ which means we can now focus on the core of the fire in that region,” Yurek said.

“The weather has cooperated, which has allowed our front-line staff to get a handle on the fires.”

The cause of Parry Sound 33, which has devastated almost 11,400 hectares, is still under investigation. It began July 18.

Yurek, along with area MPP Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka) and Premier Doug Ford visited the area last month.

“Seeing the devastation from the fire is something you don’t understand until you see it,” Yurek added, calling the “professionalism of the crews, and their dedication … amazing.”