Fire Safety in Remote Areas

Forest fires are a fact of life in Ontario, and our members are among those who are potentially at risk from the threat of fire.

To Report a Wildfire:

Central and South Ontario– call 911 or your local municipal fire department

Northwestern Ontario  – Call 310-FIRE (3473)

Northeastern Ontario – Call 310- FIRE (3473)

Because Ontario’s cottage and camp owners are located in rural and often remote locations, by very definition we must be somewhat self-reliant.

It is essential for woodland property owners to be proactive and prepared for fire emergencies, to learn about their property risks, and to take steps to make their families safer. 

Review these videos from FOCA, about Spring Burning Safety tips (left) and detailed Campfire Safety tips (right):

Access a map of current Ontario forest fire hazard levels across the country from the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System. This “Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating” is a national system to rate the risk of forest fires, based on a variety of factors, such as ease of ignition and difficulty of control.

The Province of Ontario posts general information about fire restrictions, here:

Municipalities post current fire danger ratings and fire restrictions during the fire season (April 1 to October 31 each year) – get links to municipal websites from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

image of fire hazard rating sign

Always be mindful of local conditions, and check with your local municipality about possible fire restrictions before burning. 

Visit related FOCA webpages:

Also, plan ahead and take steps throughout the year to make differences in your property’s condition to help prevent the spread of wildfire. Protect your family. Protect your property. Prepare your community. 3-Steps-to-Wildfire-Protection Infographic spells out how to make your forest home a FireSmart home (Intact & FireSmart Canada)

More Fire Safety Resources:

> download and share FOCA’s FireSmart Fact Sheet (PDF; 2 pages)

> track smoke trails across Ontario in real-time on the Fire Smoke Canada website

> download the Ontario “Home Owners FireSmart Manual” (PDF, 16 pages) with important safety information and a home hazard assessment checklist. Find additional FireSmart resources here:

> get home and cottage fire safety tips from the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs 

> learn more about all kinds of summer safety – including fire and carbon monoxide safety – in the Summer Smart handbook from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is held each year on the first Saturday in May.

Fire prevention and preparedness are key priorities. From November to January each year, associations and community groups can apply to FireSmart Canada for up to $500 to pay for tools, brush disposal, print materials, or to hold a wildfire community preparedness event between May and October. In 2022, 162 neighbourhoods received funding.

Is Your Community Prepared?

FOCA encourages waterfront communities to discuss wildfire preparedness and create a community action plan. Consider the following:

  • What will you do if a fire is approaching your or a neighbour’s residence?
  • Who will you call, and how do you sound an alarm to notify the community?
  • Does your community have fire equipment in strategic locations on the lake?
  • Who is in charge of maintaining this equipment, and who has access to it?
  • Are there emergency exits clearly marked in community buildings?
  • Do you have a home escape plan?
  • Have you located fire safe areas in the community such as lakes or other wet areas, rock outcrops, and roads?

FOCA’s Executive Director, Terry Rees shared his experiences in a 2016 article about fire lanterns, fireworks and fire bans: “we were on an island and someone chose to have an unsupervised fire in a barrel behind their place and it got out of control. The place would have burned down if it hadn’t been for the quick action of neighbours. People need to realize, particularly in the spring but also throughout the summer and fall, that there’s no magic rule that says it’s burning here and that it won’t burn six inches away.” Read the Kawartha Now article online. 

Please note: the following is archival material, and some links to third-party resources may no longer be active.

June 14, 2022 – Is your cottage covered against fires? (Cottage Life) – Cade Associates Insurance Brokers, who administer the CottageFirst insurance program exclusively available to FOCA members, are quoted in this article
May 13, 2018 – “Wild Fire near Caddy Lake puts Cottagers on edge” – CBC News coverage of fire on the Manitoba/Ontario border – water bombers douse flames
July 15, 2017 – A new study from Canadian Forest Service predicts that climate change is increasing the likelihood of high intensity, uncontrollable fire.  Further, results indicate that the proportion of days in fire seasons with the potential for unmanageable fire will increase across the Canada’s forest, more than doubling in some regions in northern and eastern boreal forest. (Mike Wotton, University of Toronto) 
July 11, 2017 – Climate change extending forest fire season in Ontario  – ‘Stroke of luck’ 2017 Ontario forest fire season quiet so far (CBC)

May 12, 2016 – Sprinklers save cottages – Fireball strikes island but wet buildings survive  (Winnipeg Free Press)