Mid-April to mid-May burn ban likely every year if North Dundas stays in lockstep with Ottawa

A moist field greening up in North Dundas. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

NORTH DUNDAS — The City of Ottawa’s Fire Service is likely to impose a mid-April through mid-May burn ban every spring going forward, a city deputy chief connected with the process has conceded.

In turn, that means residents of the rural neighbouring Township of North Dundas will face the same restriction because their municipality chooses to follow the city’s lead on burn bans.

The news will come as an added wrinkle to the township’s local proposal to limit agricultural brush-pile fires to the coldest six months of year, through the end of April.

Nation Valley News sought clarification today from Paul Hutt, Ottawa Deputy Chief, Rural & Special Operations, on the rationale behind the sudden imposition of a “pro-active” April 12-through-May 15 burn ban late last week — despite fairly moist conditions in the region this spring so far.

Hutt noted by email that Ottawa imposed a burn ban at this time last year as well, so the city’s sector chiefs “aren’t breaking new ground” by doing so now.

However, unlike 2017, the 2016 ban wasn’t set upfront to run through May 15. It was initially called off May 2 — before being reinstated a few days later as dry and drought conditions gradually worsened last year.

Hutt conceded it was a “good question” if April 2017 might be the wettest circumstances under which a burn ban has ever been imposed by Ottawa. But he explained in the email that city firefighters have already dealt with a “wild land” fire this season — on Good Friday — and that time is needed for ground cover to “green up” before the ban is lifted.

The transition from winter to spring is a critical time for the Fire Service in managing wild land ‎fires,” he wrote.

“We understand that the ground is wet and saturated this time of year, however, the top ground cover can quickly become dry and tinder on a sunny day creating a high risk fire hazard. This was the case on Good Friday when Fire Crews had to respond to a wild land fire in the West end of the City.   A fire ban is a tool used to manage risk and assist with public safety.  Human error is the leading cause for wild land fires.‎  Once the top ground cover greens up the fire risk will be reduced and the fire ban will be lifted.”

Asked in a follow-up question if residents should expect a mid-April to mid-May burn ban every year, Hutt replied:  “Our experience has shown that this is the safest approach, so therefore that is a fair observation.”

The current Ottawa/North Dundas burn ban applies to all open-air fires, including campfires.


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