Local fire officials react to southern Ontario being under 'extreme' wildfire risk
As summer-like temperatures continue to sweep across portions of southwestern Ontario, Natural Resources Canada (NRC) is upgrading the fire danger for Waterloo region to 'extreme' in its interactive fire risk map.
On Monday, NRC bumped up its fire danger from high to extreme.
“Fire Danger is a relative index of how easy it is to ignite vegetation, how difficult a fire may be to control, and how much damage a fire may do,” NRC’s website reads.
According to NRC, extreme means a "fast-spreading, high-intensity crown fire. Very difficult to control. Suppression actions limited to flanks, with only indirect actions possible against the fire's head.”
Experts use the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System to identify where in Canada people should take precautions.
"Forest fire danger is a general term used to express a variety of factors in the fire environment, such as ease of ignition and difficulty of control," the government's website reads.
According to NRC, the extreme fire danger is expected to be in place until Thursday, at which point it will drop back to high.
On May 23, the classification for the region was moderate.
The weather forecast for Kitchener-Waterloo shows the heat is set to stick around, with temperatures forecasted to reach 30 C on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
The next rain is forecasted for June 3, with a 30 per cent chance of showers.
REACTION FROM LOCAL FIRE OFFICIALS
Tom O’Hara, a public information officer with the City of Kitchener said some areas are more at risk than others.
“It is concerning a little more in the rural townships because they have larger areas of land where a fire can spread extremely quickly,” O’Hara said.
The conditions in Waterloo region .are similar to those in the Halifax area, where a suburban wildfire has forced the evacuations of thousands.
“We don't want that to occur here in the city or in the Region of Waterloo,” said John Percy, the captain of fire prevention with the Cambridge Fire Department.
And while the risk isn't as high locally, the fear is the conditions could quickly turn a small fire into a big one.
“We don't want it happening here. It's really important to remind everyone when they're outside with grass and the increased temperatures, it would take nothing for a fire to start,” Percy said.
FIRE PREVENTION TIPS
Officials told CTV there are fire prevention tips home owners should keep in mind.
- letting lawn care equipment cool following use and before storage
- cleaning the barbecue thoroughly with a 50/50 solution of soap and water before use
- properly disposing of cigarette butts
“Try and be smart in using anything fire-related so, flicking cigarette butts out the window is one of the worst and largest causes that we have especially along that dry grass along the highways and roadways,” O’Hara said.
When it comes to backyard fires, they’re already banned in Waterloo and Cambridge and the City of Kitchener is considering a ban.
“The best thing we could say right now is unless you absolutely have to no open burning, that's the safest for everybody,” O’Hara said.
Having a fire escape plan and a 72-hour travel bag is also advised.
“Even if you can't get it all together, at least get a portion of it together ready in case there ever was an evacuation plan,” O’Hara warned.