An open fire ban is being implemented throughout cottage country.

Though there is still some snow on the ground in some areas, Muskoka fire officials are welcoming the total fire ban that was imposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry at 12:01 am this morning.

With fire season underway and the increased risk of grass, brush and forest fires, the restriction on open fires is necessary to prevent accidental fires related to burning.

The MNRF imposed a “Restricted Fire Zone” for much of Ontario, in part due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its potential impact on services.

In a release, Gravenhurst Fire Chief Larry Brassard says Spring can be a very dangerous time for wildfires until green-up occurs.

“Operationally, mitigating risks and only utilizing equipment and personnel as absolutely required extends our ability to continue to provide services,” he said. “So, if it’s possible to prevent fires started by prohibiting open-air burning, it makes sense to do so.”

A total fire ban is in effect in the Town of Gravenhurst which means that no fires of any type are permitted, including fires for cooking and/or warmth.

“The Gravenhurst By-Law Division is enforcing the total fire ban with a zero-tolerance policy on complaint basis with charges and fines ranging between $200.00 to $350.00 per offence,” added Manager of By-Law Services, Dustin Gronc.

Persons who witness violations of the ban have several options:

If the fire is not a safety hazard and emergency services are not required, residents and visitors are advised to report their concerns to the By-law department at 705-687-3412 ext. 241 or by heading here.

You will be asked to provide the exact address of the property, time of the offence, and provide call back information, which is confidential.

Officers will investigate and follow up with concerns.

Meanwhile, if a fire is out of control and poses a real threat to life, safety, or property, please phone 9-1-1 and the fire department will respond.

Breyan Sinnott, Fire Prevention Officer says if the fire department has to respond to an incident involving open-air burning, Town policy is to invoice the property owner for all associated costs.

“Costs are billed out at an hourly rate per truck plus staff costs. If multiple trucks are needed, these costs can easily be in the thousands of dollars, so we’re encouraging people not to tempt fate,” added Sinnot.

Officials are also encouraging that yard debris gathered as part of spring clean-up should be taken to the local landfill site.

The community’s cooperation and understanding is appreciated as Gravenhurst takes the necessary precautions to keep our community safe.

Information on fire conditions, including if the fire ban has been lifted, can be found on Gravenhurst’s website or by calling 705-687-3414.

The fire ban will be in place until further notice.