Outdoor fire restrictions
Outdoor fire rules you need to follow in a Restricted Fire Zone — a specific area where outdoor fires are not permitted in Ontario.
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Restricted fire zone
A Restricted Fire Zone (RFZ) is an order made by the Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, under the Forest Fires Prevention Act restricting the use of open fires in a specific area of the province. It is a temporary measure put in place to prevent human-caused fires when the fire hazard is extreme or when firefighting resources are limited.
By law, you cannot have an outdoor fire in a RFZ, except in accordance with a permit or unless specific conditions have been met under the Forest Fires Prevention Act and Outdoor Fires Regulation 207/96. This includes all burning, including grass, debris and campfires, even when using an outdoor fire grate, fire place or fire pit.Please contact your local Fire Management Headquarters for more information.
RFZs are only imposed by the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry inside the Fire Region of Ontario.
Municipal fire bans
Municipal fire bans are imposed by your local municipality.
Inside the fire region, both a municipal fire ban and a Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry RFZ can be in place on the same piece of land at the same time.
If an RFZ or a municipal ban are lifted, the other ban could remain in place and continue to restrict the use of outdoor fires. It is important to check with your local municipality or local municipal fire department for any municipal fire bans or restrictions on outdoor burning in your area.
Outside of the fire region of Ontario, only municipalities have the jurisdiction to restrict outdoor fires through their municipal fire bans. A Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry RFZ would not apply in areas located outside of the fire region of Ontario.
Office of the Fire Marshal fire bans
The Office of the Fire Marshal may also impose their own fire bans in unincorporated territories that are inside of the Fire Region of Ontario.
This type of fire ban will not be imposed when there is a Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry RFZ in place.
There are exemptions to the use of outdoor fires in a Restricted Fire Zone. If strict criteria are met, campfires and charcoal barbeques may be allowed in organized campgrounds or provincial parks.
Reasons for a Restricted Fire Zone
There are two reasons why a Restricted Fire Zone is in effect.
- When outdoor conditions are extremely dry.
- The number of fires occurring has stretched firefighting resources to capacity.
A Restricted Fire Zone is a temporary measure for extreme situations. As soon as outdoor conditions permit, the restrictions are lifted.
Look for Restricted Fire Zone Signs
Look for and obey the Restricted Fire Zone signs.
Highly visible green and red Restricted Fire Zone signs are placed:
- along roadways
- at popular camping spots
- in sport lodges
- in gas stations and stores in the affected area
Large advertisements also appear in local newspapers, and announcements are made on radio and television stations in the area. These announcements may indicate which areas are restricted by referring to the zone number.
Restricted Fire Zone areas
What you cannot use
Except in organized campgrounds and provincial parks, you cannot:
- have campfires (even in outdoor fire grate, fire place or fire pit)
- burn grass or woody debris
- use burn barrels
Organized campground operators and provincial parks may allow their guests to continue enjoying campfires during a Restricted Fire Zone period provided certain strict conditions are met under the Outdoor Fires Regulation 207/96.
What you can use
Gas or fuel stove
If you need heat for cooking or warmth in a Restricted Fire Zone, you can only use:
- a portable liquid fuel or gas stove (for example, barbeque), that can be turned off easily by closing a shut-off valve or lid
- the stove must be at least one metre away from any flammable material
You can use a charcoal installation in a restricted fire zone, only if you are within 100 metres of a permanent structure used as a dwelling and are on land that you legally occupy.
Your charcoal installation must:
- be at least one metre from any flammable material
- be completely extinguished and all ashes and coals safely disposed of before installation is moved or left unattended
Wood burning stove or furnace
You can use an outdoor wood burning stove or furnace, only if you are within 100 metres of a permanent structure used as a dwelling and are on land that you legally occupy.
Your wood burning installation must be:
- at least five metres from any forest area
- at least two metres from any flammable material
- situated on bare rock, mineral, soil or other material that won’t burn and extends two metres around the stove or furnace in all directions
- designed to be used for cooking or warmth
- designed to use wood as fuel source
- made entirely of non-combustible material
- enclosed the fire on all sides with solid material
- equipped with working spark arresting devices for all vents and chimneys
To exercise extreme caution when travelling in a Restricted Fire Zone:
- be careful with anything that could start a fire
- watch your propane or gas equipment carefully
- smoke only when you’re stationary, never while walking or working in the bush
- make sure all matches or cigarettes are out before disposing of them
Once a Restricted Fire Zone is declared, it is illegal to set a fire for any purpose within the affected area unless specific conditions have been met.
Failure to comply could result in:
- a fine up to $25,000
- three months in jail
- financial responsibility for any costs incurred in fighting a forest fire
Report a fire in a restricted zone
Report a fire in a Restricted Fire Zone (except in a campground or provincial park) to your local Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry District Office.