The Status of Ontario's Forest Fire Situation

July 10, 2023
Gord Miller

There is a strong focus on the forest fire situation this year primarily because of the major fires in Quebec that have degraded the air quality in eastern North America so severely. In Ontario there is a total fire ban over the entire forested area of the province. This puts a crimp on recreational camping and canoe tripping (you can still cook on gas stoves but absolutely no open camp fires). There are a few fires in the eastern part of the province but the remote northwest is absolutely ablaze! That region is all boreal forest and it must be noted that true boreal has a fire ecology. It is expected to burn totally every 70 to 90 years (statistically). After a major fire the forest renews itself for another cycle.

The zone further south is the boreal transition forest which is home to the great red and white pine stands of great interest to Earthroots supporters. Fires also naturally cycle in these forest stands, but a key characteristic of red and white pines when they achieve a sufficient size changes the ecology.  Large pines have thick bark which makes them resistant to  damage by ground level fires. So large pines will survive a ground fire that destroys other species and live to dominate the new forest growth that emerges for another 80 or 90 years. After a couple more fire cycles you see the old growth forests with centuries old giant trees that preserve a genetic and ecological heritage not seen on "managed" forests that have been subject to logging.

Aftermath of the fires in Temagami

Eventually even resistant old growth succumbs to crown fires that kill the (non fire resistant) living green canopy. Like the boreal, the cycle is thought to start anew but the renewal of giant old growth forests is a thousand year process and we don't know if it will , in fact, occur given the expectations of future climate.

Fortunately, at time of writing, it appears there are no crown fires in the old growth. Hopefully we will get through this hot dry year without severe loss.

You can follow the status of Ontario forest fires on the government website. Search, 'Ontario Forest Fire Info Map'. or click here

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