Last Updated Mon, 08 Aug 2005 13:18:36 EDT
CBC News

A total of 57 new forest fires came to life in northwestern Ontario over the weekend, and provincial officials expect to be fighting 20 more by the end of Monday.

The culprit is the weather, which is aggravating the threat in forests parched by hot, dry weather over the past few weeks.

"Lightning is the main cause of fires in this part of Ontario at this time of year," fire information officer Deb MacLean told

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources employee said about 180 out-of-province firefighters and support staff have been sent from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories to help tackle about 130 blazes that are now burning in Ontario.

The biggest fire, called Thunder Bay 57, is burning out of control on 4,000 hectares about 100 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

The fire is not threatening any communities, but three cottages in the area have been fitted with equipment to protect them, said MacLean.

"Those are basically industrial-strength sprinkler systems, positioned on the eaves of the cabins and any other buildings, such as sheds," she said. They are powered by gas powered pumps and will be turned on by fire officials if the flames approach.

Another cluster of fires north and east of Thunder Bay 57 also has fire officials worried, given a forecast that includes more thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes.

"There is no relief in sight, and that's what we're gearing up for," said Mitch Miller, another fire information officer with the provincial department.

He pointed out that ministry equipment has recorded 150,000 lightning strikes in Ontario over the past week.

There is some good news, though.

"We're stopping 97 per cent of the fires," Miller told CBC Newsworld.