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Heat, dry temperatures cause extreme fire danger rating in Simcoe County

A long stretch without rain combined with high temperatures and dry ground conditions has many municipalities across Simcoe County with an extreme fire danger rating and burn ban.

"The phrase 'it'll never happen to me' always comes up, and unfortunately, that's why we have emergency response," said Melanie Brown, Oro-Medonte's deputy fire chief.

"A full ban is in effect in Oro-Medonte. So, no open air burns or deploying of fireworks can occur in the municipality."

For now, the conditions are leaving a region that thrives on outdoor tourism to find alternatives to campfires and roasted marshmallows.

"We certainly get a lot of cottagers and campers through our store, and we're noticing a lot of people are frustrated but understand the situation," said Chris Locke, Orillia Home Hardware owner.

Businesses that sell fire pits, like Orillia's Home Hardware, have felt the effects of the fire bans.

"It's tough. The firewood and the kindling that we sell is not going out the door at the same velocity that it normally does for sure," Locke said.

Regional fire chiefs note that one significant rainfall will not change these delicate dry conditions.

"You need a nice steady flow of rain to help penetrate the earth and create that moisture as well to allow the material to grow back and become lush and green again," Brown said.

After firefighters in Oro-Medonte responded to a blaze in the county forest last week that was only spotted and called in by a plane flying overhead, they are reminding residents that even unsuspecting things like glass bottles can ignite material in these conditions.

"Whether it's your campfires or barbecuing, even the dirt bikes that go through the county forest have hot exhausts that contribute to the fire triangle," Brown said.

Issuing extreme fire danger ratings is rare in areas like Oro-Medonte. Oro-Medonte printed fire ban banners in 2021 and has only needed to deploy them for the first time this year, where they have already had two fire bans in the past two months.  

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