The heat is on and the risk for grass and forest fires in Muskoka is extreme.
A fire ban has been in effect since Thursday and Muskoka Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Murrell says this means no fires are allowed, including for cooking or warmth. As well, no fireworks can be set off.
“For the three years I have been here, this is the earliest fire ban, even though they are not uncommon in the spring,” Murrell added.
Dry, windy weather with low humidity are some of the factors that have pushed the fire danger rating to an extreme level.
“It’s causing excessive drying in the forest,” says Murrell.
He says the concern is that all five municipalities in Muskoka are having grass fires.
“They are typically slow-growing for this time of year, but they are fast spreading because they are using that fine fuel to run across the field and then ladder up into the larger vegetation.”
Fire crews responded to a property on Moon River Road today. They found 2 open air fires that were growing into 2 wildfires. Firefighters from Bala, Foots Bay and Glen Orchard successfully contained the fires within 1 hr.— Muskoka Lakes Fire Department (@MuskokaLakesFD) May 12, 2022
A reminder that a Fire Ban is in effect. pic.twitter.com/GEymPqLWER
Its critical permanent and seasonal residents heed the fire ban warning.
“Use caution when you are in the forest this weekend,” says Murrell. “If you can refrain from smoking in the forest it would be appreciated. Definitely, do not burn anything.”
Barbecuing is allowed, though Murrell says you must pay attention.
“Anything that can create a spark in the forest right now, you need to use caution.”
Some showers are forecast for Saturday and Sunday, though they could be hit-and-miss.
“I would suggest what we are seeing in the forecast is not enough to move us from extreme to much lower than high,” Murrell says, regarding the fire danger rating. “I don’t see us changing our rating until perhaps Monday, maybe Tuesday.”
Again, many factors will determine what call is made.
Murrell says Muskoka Lakes has laid at least three charges for fire ban violations and the fine is $1,000.