Hot, dry weather heading into last weekend caused Woolwich and Wellesley townships to issue temporary open burn bans.
The open burn ban took effect June 24 at 8 a.m. and will continue until further notice.
An open burn is the burning of materials such as wood, cardboard, tree limbs, brush or garden waste, where the flame is not wholly contained.
You can still fire up the barbecue and have a campfire, so long as the campfire is not larger than 60 by 60 centimetres.
Woolwich fire prevention officer Dennis Aldous says they didn’t place any charges last weekend, but did issue some warnings.
They’re also asking that people planning to light fireworks for Canada Day celebrations be careful because sparks can ignite dry grass, and reminding them to always follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Woolwich fire chief Rick Pedersen says he spoke with the district chiefs and got input from other neighbouring townships Wellesley, Wilmot, Centre Wellington and Mapleton, opting to initiate the open burn ban from those discussions.
“We looked at Environment Canada and noticed that there’s no substantial rain for the next two weeks and the ground is hard and drying up. We’re just going to disallow the open burns – the big ones in the open fields. We’re still going to allow the residential campfires and barbecues. But if it gets worse we might put a total ban on,” Pedersen said.
He says they typically issue one open burn ban each year, and this year’s is earlier than usual because the area hasn’t seen much rain. He notes we were supposed to see some rainfall last Thursday, but that didn’t happen.
“Northern Ontario, they’ve issued total bans for the last week or two, so it’s just moved more down south,” Pedersen said.
Anyone caught with an open burn during the open burn ban will be charged under the bylaw. He says the fine is $950 and it’s the same fine for an open burn without a permit.
“When they phone in, in the morning to activate their permit we’ve been telling them of the ban and no one’s been upset with it so far, so they understand,” Pedersen said.
Fire pits are allowed in Woolwich, up to two-feet wide by two-feet long. They have to be 15 feet away from property lines, trees and outbuildings. Only clean wood can be burned – no plastic or garbage.
“There’s no fee for the inspection, but we want to inspect them to make sure they’re located right. If there’s any complaints because they’re too close or they’re bothering someone they have to shut them down,” Pedersen said.
The fire department inspects fire pits when the permits are issued. They also have to stop burning by 11 p.m., in conjunction with the noise bylaw.
He says they don’t get a ton of complaints about fire pits in the township.
“In Elmira maybe a few, it’s just because the lots are really small right now; they’re getting smaller. Elmira and Breslau and a few in St. Jacobs. We don’t have the same problems like the cities do,” Pedersen said.
He reminds residents that campfires have to be attended at all times with an extinguishing material close by.
“We ask for everyone to cease open burns, and if using campfires or barbecues, please be cautious, attentive, and have extinguishing agents available at all times. There has been a recent increase in dry grass fires and with a lack of rain in the forecast; this temporary ban will help keep Wellesley safe,” said Wellesley’s acting fire chief, Steve Martin.