| May 10, 2007


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Feature Article - May 10, 2007

Brush fires spark burn bans

by Jeff Green

Fire crews were busy fighting barn and brush fires in Central and North Frontenac and Addington Highlands over the past few days, and burn bans were issued for the entire region on Tuesday morning.

“On Saturday in particular the air was very dry; there were high winds,” said Kaladar-Barrie Fire Chief Casey Cuddy when reached by the News on Tuesday. At the time, he was heading out to scan the remains of a 100-acre fire at the Wintergreen and Harlowe Roads, looking for hot spots.

The fire had started early Saturday afternoon and was spotted by local resident Frank McEvoy.

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“I was working in the yard and smelled the smoke,” McEvoy recalls. He located the fire and ran to phone 911. Shortly after calling, he could see that the fire was spreading quickly and heading through a hydro easement.

Casey Cuddy realised quite quickly after arriving that his crews would not be able to contain the fire with the equipment they had at their disposal. “We already had a fire at Kaladar that had jumped over Highway 7,” he said.

Cuddy called the Ministry of Natural Resources early on, and within an hour a helicopter arrived with an MNR crew from Haliburton. Eventually 3 CL 415 water bombers were brought in to douse the flames from above.

“Without the water bombers we wouldn’t have had any way of stopping the fire, because it was moving faster than we could run,” Cuddy said. “We had the perimeter knocked down by late Saturday, but there are still hot spots popping out from underground fires three days later, and we’ll have to keep checking all week.”

The Hydro easement that the fire reached runs towards Highway 41, crossing it just a couple of kilometres away from the village of Northbrook.

Fortunately there were no buildings damaged in the Harlowe Road fire.

Cuddy said that at least three cottages were destroyed by fires north of Bancroft, and fire destroyed a barn on the Bell Line Road near Sharbot Lake. There were brush fires in Central Frontenac throughout the weekend, and a major cottage fire on Eagle Lake on Monday evening for which the cause is under investigation.

A frustrated Central Frontenac Fire Chief Mark MacDonald said that even though the burn ban was not in place over the weekend, some of the brush fires were caused by people who were contravening the township’s fire regulations, which prohibit daytime burning between April and October, and require a permit to be taken out.

“We have decided that people will be expected to pay for the cost of fighting fires where they have contravened the bylaw, and they will have to pay damages when fires they start spread to other people’s property,” MacDonald said.

The dry conditions have persisted into the week.

“Fire weather indices use numbers to designate the level of fire risk. Twenty-three is considered extreme. Today’s forecast is 42,” Casey Cuddy said on Tuesday morning.

With a total burn ban now in effect, no outdoor burning at all is permitted anywhere in Frontenac County. “The advantage of the comprehensive ban,” MacDonald said, “is that when MNR officials fly over the county, they will know that any smoke they see shouldn’t be there.”

With no rain in the forecast, this first fire ban of the season could remain in effect for quite some time.

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