At this time last year, the MNR’s Northwest Fire Region had seen 41 fires. This year, they just saw their first fire on Monday.
Compared to last year, there’s been more snow on the ground. The remaining snow helps moderate spring fire hazards, but Chris Marchand, the Region’s information officer, urges caution once it melts.
“Spring can be an unpredictable time,” says Marchand. “Conditions can change quickly.”
Especially in areas with large, open fields, residents should be cautious, as dry grass acts as fuel.
Marchand says the severity of a fire season can be extremely variable from year to year and says he can’t predict what the summer might look like.
“It’s always very difficult to anticipate what the weather’s going to bring,” says Marchand. “Long term weather patterns are difficult to predict with any sort of accuracy.”
Over the summer, the MNR usually hires many young people to help fight fires, but so far this year, they have not needed them, nor had them.
Marchand says they’ve had challenges trying to fill additional fire ranger roles. He says they extended their application deadline two weeks in hopes of bringing in more people.
Marchand says despite the shortage that if fire conditions were to suddenly worsen, they still have many resources to draw from — the same way they did when fires raged on last year.
The best way to fight fires is to stop them from happening in the first place. Marchand says most spring fires are human caused.
He encourages everyone to refresh on Ontario’s outdoor burning guidelines that are in effect from Apr 1 – Oct 31. The guidelines say fires can be started no sooner than two hours before sunset and extinguished no later than two hours after sunrise.
Marchand says this is to prevent burning during the day when winds are highest, and humidity is lowest — when fires typically tend to get away. He advises people keep water close, and never leave a fire unattended.