Ontario Premier Doug Ford is blaming campfires and lightning strikes for the ongoing wildfires across Northern Ontario and is promising to provide as much funding as necessary to help firefighters get the blazes under control.
A report by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), an agency that coordinates Canada’s interprovincial fire responses, said 25 fires were out of control in the province on Monday with more than 20,000 hectares on fire.
Drifting smoke from the wildfires triggered special air quality advisories for large swaths of Ontario, with Environment Canada warning of high levels of air pollution that can be “harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations.”
At Queen’s Park, Premier Doug Ford acknowledged the “major impact” of the blanket of smoke across the Greater Toronto Area but said the province is “responding in full force” with 142 fire ranger crews, 28 aircraft and nine heavy water bombers.
“My number one goal is to make sure that communities and the people are safe,” Premier Ford said. “We will spare no expense to make sure that we support our firefighters and our communities.”
The Ford government is also facing questions about the impact of climate change on the intensity and timing of wildfire season, after a government minister placed the blame on “human interactions.”
During Question Period, NDP Leader Marit Stiles claimed this isn’t an ordinary fire season and expressed concern about the “new normal” in Ontario as children are forced to stay indoors due to poor air quality.
“This is not normal, with the very real impacts of climate change being felt by millions of Ontarians,” Stiles told the Legislature. “Yesterday, the Minister of natural resources and forestry refuse to acknowledge a connection between the climate crisis and these forest fires.”
Ford, who accused the NDP is politicizing the wildfires, pinned the blame on campers and the weather.
“I have heard approximately 50 per cent of the fires are started by lightning strikes, the other 50 per cent are people starting campfire and not putting out the campfires properly,” Ford said. “I’m asking every Ontarian please do not light any campfires.”
When pressed on whether climate change is contributing to the current wildfire season, Ford dismissed the suggestion.
“They happen every single year similar to the floods,” Ford said. “The wildfires fires start every single year.”
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