With a number of cottagers expected to stay in Muskoka this winter, local firefighters are reminding people of the importance of fire safety.

Due to COVID-19, many seasonal residents will be calling cottage country home for the season and as a result, the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department is providing tips to prepare those residents ahead of the cold months.

Fire Chief Rob Collins says residents should keep in mind that access to many vacation homes can be severely limited during the winter.

“Many of these properties are served by private roads and laneways, which are not maintained by the municipality,” Collins said. “Response times can be considerably longer during the winter months due to winter road and weather conditions. Residents should take extra precautions if they’re occupying seasonal homes during the winter months.”

Collins says it’s important to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to emergency planning.

He points out that living in rural locations often means help is going to be delayed in case of emergency

“EMS staffing is reduced during the winter months when the number of residents typically decreases. It becomes much more important to be safe, knowing that any kind of emergency is automatically more serious before assistance arrives,” he said. “We know how quickly a small fire can grow and spread, and if it’s going to take longer for the fire department to arrive it becomes more important to prevent fires from starting.

Collins adds because medical help may take longer to arrive, it’s important to be cautious and aware of hazards.

He also says these residents need to be self-sufficient in their emergency planning.

“People living in rural locations need to be able to be self-sufficient for longer periods of time,” Collins said. “Severe winter weather can cause road closures, residents to be without hydro and a means of communication for days on end, so residents need to be able to take care of themselves for however long it takes to get roads and communications re-opened. A good supply of essentials including food, water and medications is critically important.”

For more tips to keep in mind for the upcoming fall and winter seasons, including road access information and the importance of a Carbon Monoxide detector – you can check the town of Huntsville’s website.