Forest fires – safety information
Every year, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and local fire departments respond to hundreds of forest fires.
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While forest fires can be dangerous to people and property, being prepared in advance and knowing what actions to take can better protect you.
By law, you cannot have an outdoor fire in a Restricted Fire Zone. This includes all campfires and burning grass and debris. There may be exceptions to the ban on outdoor fires in a Restricted Fire Zone if strict criteria are met. Refer to the Outdoor Fire Restrictions for more information.
Your municipality or municipal fire department may also have a fire ban or restrictions in addition to the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources Restricted Fire Zone. Please check for any further restrictions on open air burning in your area.
For more information on forest fires and your safety, visit the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
For more information on forest fires and your health, visit the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
Tips on how to be FireSmart
- Shore lunch and campfires are responsible for wildfires every spring. Residents are reminded that they must tend their fires at all times, making sure to put them dead out before leaving. If it is windy, the risk of a wildfire is high – don’t burn!
- Residents planning on burning grass, brush or other wood debris should consider composting or taking material to landfill sites instead. Each spring, grass fires get out of control and cause needless damage to barns, homes and cottages.
- Planning to use fireworks this weekend? Under the Forest Fires Prevention Act (FFPA), any person who sets off fireworks is responsible to ensure any hot residue from the discharge of fireworks is extinguished. There may also be municipal by-laws in place regarding the use of fireworks.
- Residents are reminded of their responsibilities under the FFPA. All forest fires are investigated to determine the cause, and a person can be held responsible for the costs of extinguishing or property damage incurred by a forest fire.
- Residents within organized municipalities should check with local fire departments or municipal offices for any burning restrictions in their area.
If you are instructed by emergency officials to evacuate, do so immediately.
If you are indoors during a wildfire:
- move away from outside walls
- close doors but leave them unlocked
- close windows, vents and blinds
- remove lightweight curtains
- open the fireplace damper and close fireplace screens
- turn a light on in each room to make your home easier to see in heavy smoke
- Turn off air conditioners.
- Have a flashlight, extra batteries and a battery-powered radio close at hand in case the power goes out.
- Keep all family members and pets together.
If power outage results
If you are outdoors during a wildfire:
- Don’t try to outrun the fire — find a pond or river to crouch in.
- If you’re not near water, go to a lower level clearing.
- If you’re near a road, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch. Cover yourself with soil or anything else that will shield you from the fire’s heat.
- Protect your lungs by breathing air closest to the ground through a moist cloth to avoid inhaling smoke.
If you are told to leave your home:
- Choose a route away from fire hazards – and listen to radio or TV.
- Watch for changes in speed and direction of fire and smoke.
- Wear long sleeve/pantleg clothing and closed-toe footwear that can protect you against flying sparks and ashes.
- Take your pets with you.
- If there is time before you leave:
- Pack as you would for a week’s vacation, including clothes, cash, medications, etc.
- Move flammable materials away from your home.
- Turn on sprinklers to wet the lawn.
- Turn off the gas line to your home.
- Tell someone when you leave and where you are going.
If you are a farmer:
- You can burn without a fire permit, if you follow Ontario’s safe burning rules.
- If you need to burn outside of these conditions, you will need a fire permit from your Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district office or your local fire service.
- Contact your local municipality for any additional requirements regarding burning and/or permits.
Take the following steps so you and your family are prepared in the event of a forest fire:
- Review and discuss the safety tips with your entire household to make sure everyone understands what to do in a forest/wildland fire.
- Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your address so that fire vehicles can easily find your home.
- Practice evacuating your home. Teach all household members the technique of
stop, drop and rollin case clothes catch on fire.
- Install smoke detectors and sprinklers on every floor and by all sleeping areas.
- Plan several escape routes away from your home by car and by foot.
- Create a safety zone around your home. Modify or eliminate brush, trees and other vegetation that could spread fire.
Consult with your local fire department about making your home fire-resistant.