The Township of South Frontenac issued the following release regarding its Fire Ban status & enforcement:
The Township would like to remind residents that effective March 20, 2020, a total fire ban has been in place across the Township. Fire bans are enacted by the Fire Chief in accordance with the Fire Protection & Prevention Act and applicable local by-laws.
A total fire ban means absolutely no open air burning unless you are using a cooking appliance with a mechanical shut-off (e.g. barbeque or propane stove). Most neighbouring municipalities have instituted similar total fire bans.
A moderate Forest Fire Danger Rating exists in the northern half of the Township and other parts of the County as identified by the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF). Last week, the MNRF also instituted a province-wide ban within restricted fire zones, in part because of the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on emergency responders and the need to maintain the capacities of provincial and local fire services.
Despite the local bans, South Frontenac Fire and Rescue (SFFR) was dispatched to over 20 illegal fires this past weekend, at considerable cost to the Township and its ratepayers. Because some residents choose not to comply with this ban SFFR will be ramping up its enforcement beginning this weekend, in order to reduce the effects of illegal burning, including:
- Significant financial cost to ratepayers for each response
- Risk to persons and property (four (4) grass fire responses already this season)
- Group gatherings (> 5 persons) which are not permitted under the Province’s emergency orders and can spread COVID-19.
The increased enforcement will include levying fees for emergency dispatch to illegal fires. Fees are outlined in the Township’s Burning By-law No. 2012-68 (pdf) and range from $75 for a basic response and investigation of a complaint, to $410 per vehicle plus firefighter wages for larger responses.
“Although a fire ban may seem unnecessary after experiencing a few days of rain last week, at this time of year the dead grass and brush dries out again quickly with just a bit of wind, so a significant risk of fire remains.” Said Darcy Knott, Director of Emergency Services and Fire Chief for South Frontenac.
Mayor Vandewal acknowledged the challenge of a fire ban at this time, but reiterated the reasons it is in place. “I can understand the desire to have a fire and be productive while stuck at home. Unfortunately, it is not safe for residents to do so at this time.”
Fire Chief Darcy Knott assured residents that the ban will be lifted when it is safe to do so, “Township & SFFR staff will continue to review this situation and consider changes to the ban if conditions warrant. We have no desire to have the ban in place for any longer than necessary. In the end, the goal is to protect persons, property, and to reduce excess costs to our ratepayers – and these are things than can impact our entire community.”