Unusually dry weather prompts more calls to fire departments for grass, field fires
CBC News

Unusually dry weather conditions in southwestern Ontario has prompted more calls to the region's fire departments for grass or field fires. 

In Waterloo, Platoon Chief Colin Mickie said his fire department has responded to more calls this summer than in past years.

Many have involved trash fires, grass fires in parks or small encampments, he said. There have also been some grass fires at homes with larger properties.

He said grass fire season typically happens earlier in the year as a result of dry, leftover undergrowth from the previous year. It's rare for the fire department to get this many calls this far into the summer, he said, but there hasn't been a lot of rain this summer.

"It's been so dry and [the grass] lights so easily, so we've been having to respond to numerous calls," Mickie said.

"Improper disposal of [cigarettes, matches], we've had issues with that for mulch around buildings, and campfires have also cause some issues."

Cigarette butts a big hazard

Properly disposing cigarette butts is always important, said Cambridge fire prevention officer Eric Gates, but especially so during dry weather.

"One of the biggest hazards that we have that causes grass fires are careless discarding of smoking materials," he said.

"People that are ejecting the cigarette butts out of the windows of their vehicles while moving or carelessly discarding them on the grass."

Tom Ohara, Kitchener's fire prevention officer, agrees. He said crews with the Kitchener Fire Department have been responding to more grass fires along roadways this month, likely caused by tossed cigarette butts.

Ohara said the drier weather means people need to be more cautious, even at home.

"[People] should be very, very careful even in their own backyard using the barbecue," he said.

"Have a bucket in the backyard, where [cigarettes] can be put out, and if you're driving, you should not be flicking your [cigarette] butts out the window." 

In Woolwich, deputy fire chief Craig Eveson said there's been an uptick in grass and field fires just in the last week and a half. Township platoon chiefs and the Region of Waterloo meet regularly to determine if a fire ban is needed in the area, since dealing with grass fires in rural communities can be resource heavy and labour intensive, he said. 

"It is a dynamic decision that can change daily, can change weekly," he said. "It's reflective of the current weather and precipitation levels we get."

Sunday's storm put off that ban for now, but Eveson said they will meet again at the end of this week.


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