Muskoka seasonal residents warned of delays in fire service response should they remain through the winter months

Some residents remaining in their vacation home as the pandemic progresses into winter

With the onset of cooler weather, many seasonal residents have taken the opportunity to pack up their cottages or summer homes in Muskoka. Then again, some have not.

The Huntsville Fire Service is advising those seasonal residents who have opted to remain in their vaction home as the pandemic progresses into the winter months that help may not be as readily available as before. “Residents should keep in mind that access to many seasonal vacation homes can be severely limited during the winter months, as many of these properties are served by private roads and lane ways, which are not maintained by the municipality,” said Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department Chief Rob Collins. “Response times can be considerably longer during the winter months due to winter road and weather conditions. Residents should take extra precautions if they’re occupying seasonal homes during the winter months.”

Chief Collins stresses the need to be prepared and proactive, so that a call to the fire service isn’t even required. “EMS staffing is reduced during the winter months, when the number of residents typically decreases. It becomes much more important to be safe, knowing that any kind of emergency is automatically more serious before assistance arrives,” he said. “We know how quickly a small fire can grow and spread, and if it’s going to take longer for the fire department to arrive it becomes more important to prevent fires from starting. Similarly, because medical help may take longer to arrive, it is extremely important to be cautious and aware of hazards.”

Collins added seasonal residents must be willing to be self-sufficient while remaining in their cottage through the winter months. “Severe winter weather can cause road closures, residents to be without hydro and a means of communication for days on end, so residents need to be able to take care of themselves for however long it takes to get roads and communications re-opened. A good supply of essentials including food, water and medications is critically important.”

It is strongly suggested that 911 signs be kept visible despite the snow, in order to prevent further response delays. Make sure you know your 911 address in case you need to call for help.