TEXT SIZE: Decrease text size Reset text size Increase text size Print Page

MuskokaONline.com News - #GOTLOCAL

MNRF provides Lake of Bays with an overview of what to look out for regarding wildfires
Get Local News!

MNRF provides Lake of Bays with an overview of what to look out for regarding wildfires

Posted: 2024-02-14 06:57:51 By: thebay

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) provided Lake of Bays with an overview of wildfire awareness, in the February 13, 2024, Council meeting.

The MNRF Co-ordinator for the Communications and Mitigation Unit, Ken Cox advised that the 2023 fire season was escalated for the whole summer. He said, “Canada had 18.4 million hectares consumed in the forest. And to put that in perspective, traditionally we burned about 4 million hectares of land.”

He explained that elements that ignite a fire can be lightning, an ember from a campfire, or a cigarette butt that hasn’t been put out and thrown into grass.

According to the MNRF report, the ground cover, otherwise referred to as “fuel” can escalate or eliminate a fire, or change the way it burns, depending on the environment, such as dead grass, tree types, and other mixtures of materials.

The report indicates that a “fire triangle” is required for a fire to develop, which consists of the elements of heat, oxygen, and fuel.

Cox added that a boreal mix of trees can result in fire spread of 4 metres per minute, boreal spruce 9 metres per minute “therefore doubles in size because of the needles,” and slash is slower at 5 metres per minute. Dead grass is especially concerning. “You throw a spark into grass – standing dead grass – in springtime conditions, you’re looking at 24 metres a minute.”

He continued, “There’s no resource or agency in Canada that can respond to a fire at 24 metres per minute and put fire fighters between a home and that fire and protect that home.”

He explained that fire bans remain in place because drying hasn’t occurred enough in the layers of fuel.

One of the most important precautions that everyone – municipalities, fire departments, homeowners – can take is vegetation management, advised Andrew. “Fire and fuel equals why homes burn.”

According to Cox, sparks and embers contribute to 90 percent of the homes lost in the country from wildland fires. He said, “The emphasis here is if folks can keep the home itself free of flammable debris, free of pine needles, twigs, leaves, anything that’s fine that can catch a fire rapidly…they’ve just saved their home from being consumed by a wildfire 90% of the time.”

He added that it’s a misconception that direct flame is the primary cause of structural loss, as it only accounts for 8 percent. “It’s those little embers that land on the structure that cause small debris to ignite and transform the heat energy to the structure and then cause that structure to ignite.”

Another misconception according to Andrew is that the fire department will always be there when we need them. Factors to consider include other calls they’re on, or priority fires, such as a hospital, which takes precedence over a home or cottage.

According to the report, helpful measures homeowners and municipalities can take for fire prevention or spread include choice of ground cover directly around structures (i.e. mulch or plants not in close proximity to buildings or houses), keeping gutters, roofs and decks clean free from debris, pruning trees 2 metres from the ground, mowing the lawn to 10 centimetres, keeping fire hazardous materials, such as lumber, away from the house or buildings, using metal fencing and fire resistant materials for building upgrades.

Councillor, Mike Peppard, inquired about whether a decrease in the amount of snow would have an impact on the summer.

Cox advised that it does have an impact however, important considerations include how the snow evaporates. He said, “The more that it evaporates, and the less ultimately that goes into the water table or into the fuels, the more dry those fuels are and the start of the fire season.”

Precipitation is an important factor regarding the risks, indicated Cox.

Mayor, Terry Glover, indicated that he received a similar report by the watershed this week. He added, “Certainly we have had less snow, but we can’t predict the precipitation yet, and what that will do to assist us in staying safe.”

He added the wildfire information was to help provide answers to concerns people have raised. “I wanted to bring forth some information and education so people realize that we’re doing what we can.”

For more information about wildfires and prevention measures, visit firesmartcanada.ca or Ontario.ca/page/firesmart.