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)

Click the image above to expand it.

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. (pictured: the Fire Map in May 2023)

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), and impose fines for failing to comply with local fire bans.

Get links to municipal websites from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Track smoke trails across Ontario in real-time on the Fire Smoke Canada website.

image of fire hazard rating sign
banner: Latest News

May 2024 – FOCA held a FireSmart webinar, together with our fire safety partners at the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry:

Memories of the 2023 fire season are still close at hand: a record-breaking 741 fires and 441,000 hectares of forests burned (almost three times the 10 year average!). However, there are may things you can do at your own rural property, to increase your property’s resilience to wildland fire. This 1 hour webinar with the forest fire experts includes top fire safety tips for your property. Download the slides (PDF, 6 MB) which include links to additional resources.

May 2024 – FOCA’s partners at AFFES encourage you to start with a simple home assessment, to begin the process of keeping your home safe from fire. Install the FireSmart Begins at Home application from the Apple App Store or Google Play, or download the FireSmart Home Assessment Score Card (source of the image at the side). 

November 22, 2023 – read about “the Summer Canada Burned”  — The wildfire season that shocked the world (Calgary Herald; source of the graph below – click the graph image to expand it). 

For a seasonal summary, consult Ontario’s Forest Fire webpage, as well as an October 2023 CBC article outlining in five charts the record-breaking 2023 wildfire season that was. 

Also read the ‘Fire Season‘ and ‘Flood & Wildfire-ready Property‘ articles in the 2023 Ontario Lake Stewards Magazine (download PDF, 32 pages).

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):

Tips & Tools to be “FireSmart” at your property:

July 2023 – whether you live part-time or full-time in cottage country, check out the new FireSmart Home Ignition Zone Poster (PDF, 1 page). By taking simple actions around the cottage, you can significantly reduce the risk of wildland fires impacting structures on your property. Start in the ‘Immediate Zone’ and work out to the ‘Extended Zone’.

Download the FireSmart Begins at Home App (for Apple or Android) on your digital device, to walk you through a home and structure assessment.

Or, consult the FireSmart Begins at Home Guide (PDF, 21 pages).

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)

> 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)