The Reach of Forest Fires
Last week, while walking my dog, a strange haze lingered in the sky. The smell of smoke was heavy. I wondered which forest fire I smelled. Where was it coming from? Was it the fire in Skead, the one in Val Caron, or from somewhere, farther than that? I later discovered it was actually from the fire that was 162 kilometres away in Temagami. I was in Sudbury, and the smell was that strong. I couldn’t imagine what Temagami was like. I hoped everyone was safe and realized forest fires can impact so many, directly and indirectly.
It seems around the same time last year as well, British Columbia was experiencing one of its worst fire seasons. “‘Certainly BC will remember 2017 as one of the worst fire seasons on record,’” Provincial Fire Information Officer, Ryan Turcot stated (as quoted in CFJC Today, 7 November 2017, Adam Donnelly).
Last week alone in Ontario headlines read:
- Forest Fires lead to evacuations near Temagami (Sudbury.com, 9 July 2018, BayToday Staff).
- Thousands of hectares are burning out of control in parts of Ontario(Toronto Star, 10 July 2018, Patty Winsa).
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry sets up base camp to battle raging Ontario wildfires (Ottawa Citizen, 10 July 2018, Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles).
As of July 19th, there are 66 active forest fires across the Northeast Ontario Region, “of these, 32 are not yet under control, 34 are either being held, under control or being observed” (Regional Fire Situation – July 19, 2018, Government of Ontario).
Depending on the conditions (example, lack of precipitation), a fire can start with as little as a spark from a chainsaw, cigarette butt or a match tossed away. That’s why, it’s important to ensure we are taking measures to reduce the risk of fire and the potential resulting damage.
Here are 10 Forest Fire Prevention Tips that can help keep your property fire safe:
- 1. Learn about urban interface and ways to reduce potential danger to your property from wildfires. One step would be to create a fire break by clearing dead grass and trees from around your buildings. Remove any dead branches overhanging your roofs, too.
- 2. Conduct regular inspections to ensure that your buildings are safe. Look for conditions which can start fires or prevent escape in case of a fire.
- 3. Stack any firewood or lumber well away from your buildings.
- 4. When not in use, ensure BBQ’s and propane tanks are stored appropriately with no smoking signs.
- 5. Store any rags that have absorbed oil, paint, glue, and other chemicals, fuels or solvents outdoors in a closed metal container, if they cannot be disposed of immediately.
- 6. Check that your electrical systems are up to standard and are inspected by a licensed electrician.
- 7. Ensure that your fire extinguishers are placed in an appropriate location, as per local fire regulations (for example, near exits and/or in a common area). For more information, please download our free sample Fire Safety & Fire Extinguisher Training Module from our Resource Centre.
- 8. Have your fire extinguishers inspected and tested annually by a licensed contractor. It is also important that trained staff are checking fire extinguishers monthly and signing the affixed tags.
- 9. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning; they should be tested regularly as local laws require.
- 10. Take note of any fire bans in the area and refrain from having open air fires when prohibited due to conditions (Find out where fires are restricted in Ontario).
Learn more about where the fires are located with the MNR Interactive Forest Fire Info Map.
Read the Safety Tips on the Government of Ontario’s website, including tips on what to do if you are told to leave your home. Access it here (Forest Fires – Safety Information, Government of Ontario).