Spring fire season a relatively ‘volatile time for wildland fires’
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Spring can be a “volatile time for wildland fires in general”, shared Sioux Lookout District Sector Response Officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Carney McConnachie. “Before the trees green up and the leaves emerge, fire can spread very quickly in dry grasses and forest fuels. Fire hazard conditions can rebound much faster in the spring following a rainfall as less moisture has been taken up into plants and trees.”
McConnachie explained that as we move further into spring, the snow will continue to melt. As this happens, the vegetation underneath the snow absorbs much of that moisture produced by the snow melt. With that moisture now being absorbed by forest fuels, how long they stay saturated will depend on other factors such as relative humidity, temperature, wind and terrain. He added that as we move into warmer conditions, moisture in those forest fuels might be reduced under drier conditions, increasing their susceptibility to fires.
Once an area becomes snow free, direct sunlight, low relative humidity with warm or windy conditions, can render an area susceptible to fire in a very short period of time, shared McConnachie. Open areas with fine fuels like grass, that can easily be ignited once dried out enough, are more prone to catching fire, he added.
McConnachie shared that the weather conditions that we see after an area becomes snow free in the spring will be an important factor in determining the area’s susceptibility to wildland fires. He added, “Looking ahead to the spring fire season, which officially begins April 1, the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will be ready to respond to wildland fires. The weather trends that will shape the fire hazard across the province in the weeks to come are very difficult to foresee, so it’s hard to say whether a Restricted Fire Zone will be implemented this spring – it all depends on the weather conditions and the fire hazard at the time.”
Manager of Municipal Emergency Services and Fire Chief Robert Popovic shared that burn permits are required year-round to burn wood, brush, leaves and grass. He added that during the fire season, people can only burn two hours before sunset and two hours after sunrise. “The person burning must have a valid burn permit, and they must follow the rules and regulations issued with the burn permit.”
McConnachie shared that people must be mindful of any Restricted Fire Zone put in place by the MNRF. It is a temporary measure taken to prevent human-caused fires on Crown land, by restricting the use of fire during a period of elevated fire hazard, or when firefighting resources are limited. He stated that additionally, the Municipality’s Fire Department may have their own fire ban or restrictions that prevent burning within municipal boundaries.
Popovic shared that the MNRF has not issued a Restricted Fire Zone for our area and updates on the most current fire restrictions can be found at https://www.ontario.ca/page/forest-fires.
The Municipality will keep the community informed of any projected fire ban through updates on their website and social media feeds, as the burning season continues.
“This is important for residents to understand and check with your local municipality to clarify if and what municipal fire ban restrictions are in place. Inside of the fire region in Ontario, a municipal fire ban and an MNRF Restricted Fire Zone can be in place at the same time,” McConnachie added.
The Municipality shared last Friday that burning permits are now available for residents of Sioux Lookout, Hudson and Alcona, valid between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.
An Open Air Burning Permit is required for all residents burning bush and grass, and an Annual Incinerator Permit for those using an incinerator.
Permits priced $10 each, can be purchased at the Municipal Office, Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Any person burning without a permit will be subject to a fine. Further information can be found at the Municipality’s website at https://bit.ly/3lyv9di.
McConnachie shared, “For those planning some spring cleanup around the yard, residents should be aware of Ontario’s Outdoor Fires Regulation that goes into effect April 1.” The regulations can be found at https://bit.ly/3tE6MO7. “We ask residents to consider saving those burn piles for the fall, or to consider alternatives to burning such as chipping, composting or the landfill,” he concluded.