How to keep your cottage safe from forest fires

By Paulo M. F. Pires/Shutterstock

Forest fire season—April through to October—has begun. Are you prepared?

Each year over the last 25, about 7,500 forest fires have raged in Canada. And while the total area burned varies, the average is about 2.5 million hectares annually.

When it comes to forest fires and cottagers, however, the forest is not an issue. It becomes an issue if someone puts a home in the forest, says the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests’ agreements advisor Jim Murphy. “Now you have a risk and that’s what you have to assess.” He says cottagers need to manage the fuel sources around their buildings. And while his advice may rankle cabin owners who would rather keep their properties natural and tucked away under the forest canopy,  we all have to weigh the risk. How to reduce that risk? Here are some suggestions:

1 Prune bottom branches so that fire can’t climb to the tops of trees.

2 Thin evergreen trees to provide space between them that will act as a firebreak.

3 Rake up leaves so they don’t provide a pathway for fire to get to the cottage.

4 Clear debris off the roof, out of gutters, and from under decks.

5 Follow FireSmart Canada’s tips for landscaping to establish fire-safe “zones” around your cottage. “What we learned from the Fort McMurray fires is that many homes burned because of gardens and mulches around them,” Murphy says.  


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