The province has increased base funding for emergency forest fire fighting by $30.2 million and is ensuring safety measures are in place to protect fire rangers during the pandemic, officials announced on Friday, May 15.
To help stop the spread of COVID-19, rangers will be required to follow health and safety guidelines, such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and completing daily self-assessments by staff, the province stated.
A more aggressive approach to fighting wildland fires this season with a focus on detecting fires early, combating them with full force, and keeping them as small as possible, has also been implemented.
More steps taken
“This is an extraordinary period. As we put measures in place to protect our staff and the public from the pandemic, we have been taking additional steps to prepare for the wildland fire season,” Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski stated in a press release.
Forest fire hazard conditions will continue to be assessed and an RFZ designation may be reinstated in higher-risk areas if conditions deteriorate, officials stated.
Aim is to reduce fires
The restriction aims to reduce the number of preventable human-caused fires and lower the risk of wildfires impacting the public.
“Nothing is more important than protecting the safety of people and communities across the province. Although we want people to enjoy themselves, lifting the Restricted Fire Zone designation does not mean we can let our guard down when it comes to preventing human-caused forest fires,” Yakabuski stated.
More than 530 fires burned approximately 269,600 hectares of land in northern and central Ontario, the ministry reported after the wildland fire season officially ended on Oct. 31, 2019.