Facts about fire bans and wild fires

A press release from Madawaska Valley Fire Department explains everything you need to know about fire bans and wild fire safety.

Wild Fire Season

Wild fire season in Ontario runs from April 1 to October 31. During the season, you are not allowed to have an open air fire from two hours after sunrise to two hours before sunset. This means no brush, grass, or even campfires may be burnt in the day time. If you decide to burn during this period of time you require a fire permit (excluding campfires, fires for heat or cooking which do not require permits).

If you are having a fire, make sure you keep water and a shovel near the fire site so that you can extinguish it.

Fire rating levels:

Madawaska Valley has four levels of fire ratings:

  • Level 1 Green: November 1 to March 31. Burning is allowed 24/7 without a permit but you must tell the fire department
  • Level 2 Yellow: April 1 to October 31. Fires are allowed 2 hours before sunset until 2 hours after sunrise with a permit
  • Level 3 Orange: LEVEL 1 FIRE BAN: All fire permits are suspended, no new permits will be issued, no brush or grass fires are allowed. Campfires are allowed in fire pits. Charcoal barbecues and fireworks are allowed.
  • Level 4 Red: LEVEL 2 FIRE BAN: No open fires, flames or sparklers are allowed. This is imposed when conditions are at the extreme level. Fires can start and spread quickly.

Every municipality has its own By-Laws so always check with them before lighting a fire. The fire ratings above are those used by the municipality of Madawaska Valley.

The whys behind the bans

A lot of factors are considered before the Fire Department decides to issue a fire ban. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) gives the municipality a Daily Wildfire Report. This report provides information such as how dry the ground is (both on the surface and below the surface), how quickly grass or brush can catch fire (i.e., how dry is the vegetation), how quickly a fire can spread if a fire does start), and how much rain we have received in the last 24 hours. MV Fire Chief Corwin Quade said,

Along with this I go out and check in different locations in the Township by digging a hole and checking the local moisture in the sand. I walk through forested areas to check and see how crunchy the leaves or the needles are.

This is done over weeks to ensure that everything is considered to determine whether it is safe to allow fires or not. The Fire Department takes imposing a fire ban very seriously. It is not something that just goes up and then goes down. Once a ban is issued it takes days of rain before it can be lifted. (A downpour during one thunderstorm does not do it.)

If you see a wild fire

If you see a wild fire, call 911 right away. These fires are extremely dangerous and unpredictable. They can move at a rate of 11 to 20 kms per hour (the average person walks at 3 kms per hour or runs at 7 kms per hour). This type of fire can burn 1 hectare of land in an hour, and if it gets into the tops of trees it can crown.  If it crowns, the fire can jump from tree to tree raining down hot embers causing the fire to spread in every direction at rapid speed. Another thing some people do not realize is that a wild fire can burn underground and can pop up hundreds of feet away from the head of the main fire. This now starts a new fire and it grows bigger and bigger.

Fire proof your property

A few tips to keep your property safe from Wild Fires:

  • Keep your trees limbed up 2 meters (6 feet)
  • Clean up leaves and other debris
  • Maintain your lawn and keep the grass cut.

More detailed information about wild fire prevention and safety is available online. Click HERE to visit FireSmart Canada.    Alternatively, click HERE for wild fire advice from the Canadian Red Cross. 


Quade,C. MV Fire Department (2019,Aug.2) Fire Ban Explanations and Wild Fire Info [press release]

Photo sootoday.com

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