‘Zero tolerance’ for fires — or pay big bucks

GRAVENHURST — If you live in the core of town and you smell smoke — call 911 immediately.

This fire is illegal in town.

Remind your neighbours far and wide that that acrid taste filling your mouth and nostrils at dusk must stop — now.

It’s “zero tolerance” — or it will cost you hundreds of dollars.

With major forest fires burning in different parts of Central Ontario, the Muskoka fire chiefs have set the forest fire risk rating to “Extreme,” knowing what potential risks exist.

Gravenhurst’s Fire Chief Larry Brassard wants to emphasize the seriousness of the ban to ensure public safety.

So does his new fire prevention officer.

“The heat warnings, lack of rain and over all extremely dry conditions have caused us all to take a very hard look at what environmental conditions, forecasts and the actual conditions in our forested areas are telling us,” said Breyan Sinnott.

Gravenhurst fire officials say the starting price for a fire truck call is $500 per hour for open-air fires that are illegal, which can add up to thousands of dollars if the fire gets out of control.

She says “a total fire ban” is in effect in the Town of Gravenhurst and other communities within the District of Muskoka.

That means that no fires of any type are permitted, including fires for cooking and/or warmth. The ban even extends to charcoal barbecues.

In addition, “The Gravenhurst Bylaw Division is enforcing the total fire ban with a “zero tolerance” policy pro-actively on a complaint-driven basis.

“Charges and fines range between $200 to $350 per offence,” said Dustin Gronc, manager of bylaw services.

People who witness a violation of the ban have several options. If the fire is not a safety hazard and emergency services are not required, residents and visitors are advised to report their concerns to the bylaw division at 705-687-3412 ext. 241.

Please make sure to provide the exact address of the property, time of the offence, photos if possible, and provide call back information, which is guaranteed confidential.

Officers will investigate and follow up with concerns. You may also submit a complaint Online atwww.gravenhurst.ca/bylaw .

If a fire is out of control or poses a threat to life, safety, or property, pleasecall 911, the fire department will respond to an emergency.

“If the fire department has to respond to an incident involving open air burning, we will  additionally invoice the property owner for all costs,” said Sinnott.

Costs are billed out at an hourly rate per truck, with rates starting at about $500 an hour.

“If a fire is truly out of control and multiple trucks are needed, these costs can easily be in the thousands of dollars,” she added. “This past weekend it took our firefighters in excess of 12 hours to fully extinguish one fire.”

The Forest Fire Danger Rating will remain‘Extreme’ until the region receives a significant amount of rainfall.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to keep updated through the Town’s website atwww.gravenhurst.ca , or by calling theMuskoka Fire Danger Rating line at 1-877-847-1577.

Fire officials say “Now is also a good time to make sure that your“72-hour kit” is equipped with all the essentials in case you have to evacuate your residence in the event of an emergency. Your kit should include two litres of water for each person, non-refrigerated foods, flashlights, a battery operated radio, emergency contact information, personal identification, insurance information, medical prescriptions, personal hygiene products, pet food and a small first aid kit,” said Sinnott.

“The (current) fire in Temagami stands as an example of how quickly a forest fire can escalate.  Everyone needs to be prepared, and that includes knowing where to go in the case of emergency, such as a relative’s or friend’s in a

different community,” she added.

For more information on fire prevention, please contact: fire prevention officer Sinnott at: 705-687-3414ext. 223 or email her at Breyan.Sinnott@gravenhurst.ca .

And for further inquiries or to report an open air burning concern, please contact: By-law Division: 705-687-3412 ext. 241