Charred fox a symbol of grass fire danger, says Cape Breton fire chief

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A small fox with a burned lower half was spotted after a grass fire March 25 in North Sydney.  (Submitted by North Sydney Fire & Rescue - image credit)
A small fox with a burned lower half was spotted after a grass fire March 25 in North Sydney. (Submitted by North Sydney Fire & Rescue - image credit)

A picture of a red fox with a scorched tail and lower legs is being used by a Cape Breton fire department to drive home the risks of unnecessary grass fires.

The grainy picture was shot last month in North Sydney, roughly two kilometres away from the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal.

"It touches your heartstrings to see that," said Lloyd MacIntosh, chief of North Sydney Fire & Rescue.

"Especially when it's unnecessary — completely unnecessary — and didn't need to happen."

Lloyd MacIntosh, chief of North Sydney Fire & Rescue, says the image of a burned fox shows just one of the dangers presented by lighting grass fires in the spring season.
Lloyd MacIntosh, chief of North Sydney Fire & Rescue, says the image of a burned fox shows just one of the dangers presented by lighting grass fires in the spring season. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Firefighters say the fox was injured after a pair of fires were set to a patch of overgrowth along the bottom of a highway overpass.

"We didn't realize there was an issue at the time," said MacIntosh. "But then some of the neighbours that live in the area had some pictures of the fox, and a fox den, that was in the centre of the fire area."

MacIntosh said the extent of the animal's injuries is unclear.

Search for the injured animal

Volunteer firefighters searched for the fox after seeing its photograph, but were unable to locate it.

MacIntosh said a call was also made to an animal rescue group about steps to take in case it was captured.

"They said if we were able to capture the fox, they would treat it, but the issue at the time was we were thinking it's probably nursing some young and we didn't want to remove it."

No trace of the fox has been found. People are advised not to go looking for it unless they have wildlife rescue training, said MacIntosh.

'Unnecessary form of fire'

Not only do grass fires harm wildlife and habitat, they also tie up limited resources at smaller departments such as North Sydney.

That means pulling volunteers from other emergencies or family and work commitments.

The North Sydney station's busiest year saw them battling nearly 500 grass fires.

An area along Emerald Street in North Sydney is blackened after two grass fires in late March, including one that firefighters say injured a red fox.
An area along Emerald Street in North Sydney is blackened after two grass fires in late March, including one that firefighters say injured a red fox.(Matthew Moore/CBC)

"Grass fires are a completely unnecessary form of fire," MacIntosh said. "They provide no good, they provide no benefit for anything. If anything, they offer destruction … if a fire gets out of control, many times it's burned fences, it's burned homes and it's melted siding."

MacIntosh said the belief that fire will make the grasses grow greener simply isn't true.

"People in the greenhouse business and the flower and tree business … they've said that is just a myth, it doesn't provide any benefit whatsoever," he said.

MacIntosh is hoping the fox will serve as a symbol of the risks posed by these types of fires.

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