Commonly asked questions about fire bans in Ontario

The government of Ontario has implemented a Restricted Fire Zone in response to the recent heat wave and the province’s growing number of active wildfires. We sat down with Isabelle Chenard, a fire information officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, to learn what this restriction means, how it differs from municipal bylaws, and what it limits.

What is a Restricted Fire Zone, and why has it been put in place?

A Restricted Fire Zone is an order made by the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry under the legislation called Forest Fire Prevention Act. It restricts the use of open fires in a specific area of the province. It’s a temporary measure put in place to prevent human-caused fires when the fire hazard is extreme, or when firefighting resources are limited. Right now there are 80 active fires in Ontario, a high fire load that increases the demand on our firefighting resources.

How long does the restriction last?

It’s in place until further notice. I can’t give a more specific timeline. Despite some rain or showers that we’ve had across the province, some areas remain very dry and can create strong fire behaviour. 

What is specifically prohibited in a Restricted Fire Zone?

You can’t have an outdoor fire in a Restricted Fire Zone, except in accordance with a permit, or unless specific conditions have been met under the legislation’s Forest Fire Prevention Act and the Outdoor Fires Regulation. This includes all burning: grass, debris, and campfires, even when using an outdoor fireplace, fire grate, or a firepit.

Are propane fire pits allowed during the restriction?

You can use propane stoves under certain conditions. If you’re going out camping you can use a stove as long as you’re not located near any flammable materials, and as long as there’s a valve or a lid for it to be closed and shut off. Charcoal barbecues may also be allowed in organized campgrounds or provincial parks.

What areas of Ontario does the restriction cover?

The Forest Fire Prevention Act only applies to the northern region of Ontario, so Restricted Fire Zones are only imposed by the ministry inside Ontario. Click our interactive map to see if your cottage region is affected. You’ll see a yellow or orange border appear within the province of Ontario, outlining what the fire region of Ontario is. You can zoom in for a closer look at the southern portion of the province, where the fire region border starts and ends. Outside of this fire region, municipalities have jurisdiction to impose fire ban bylaws.

What’s the difference between municipal bans and the Restricted Fire Zone? 

It’s not the same jurisdiction—municipalities can impose whatever restrictions they want under their local bylaw, and it’s separate from the Restricted Fire Zone. For example, the fire region of Ontario’s Restricted Fire Zone does not restrict fireworks, but municipalities can have bans that do. But that’s just one example. You have the responsibility, if you’re located in a municipality, to consult their specific fire restriction bylaws.

Can municipal bans and the Restricted Fire Zone be imposed at the same time?

There can be two restrictions at the same time, or there can be only one. If the municipal bylaw is more limiting than the Restricted Fire Zone, then you have to follow the bylaw, or vice versa. The most restrictive of the two is what has to be followed.

Aside from following restrictions and bans, what can people do to help?

People should consider reading about the FireSmart program. There are a lot of tips there that can be put in place easily to help reduce the risks of a nearby fire spreading to your home or cottage. In regard to ladder fuels, removing midline vegetation around your yard prevents a group fire from climbing to the crown of trees which would give it more potential to spread to structures such as homes, sheds, garages, wood piles, etc. On the website, there’s a whole list of things you could do, from removing flammable material from above and underneath your decks to removing low lying branches on your property. You can also add certain plants in your garden, which have a higher humidity content that can reduce the risk of a fire spreading.

  • Nannyberry
  • Wild germanium
  • Wintergreen
  • Bearberry

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