A public education campaign featuring a scorched fox is being credited with helping dramatically reduce the number of grass fires in North Sydney, N.S.
Volunteer firefighters found the animal with a charred tail and legs after attending a call earlier this year.
They were unable to capture the fox and get it help, but they took its picture and posted it on social media.
They also had signs made up with images of various animals saying, "Please don't burn, this is my home," and posted them around the community.
The number of calls had already dropped from about 400 a year to 40 this spring, and fire Chief Lloyd MacIntosh said that number fell even further after publicizing the effects on animals.
"Particularly after that campaign started, grass fires dropped off for us completely," he said. "I think we had one after that."
The picture of the fox just seemed to strike a chord with the public, MacIntosh said.
"It really picked at the hearts of people," he said. "They saw this poor animal that was burned and directly because of a grass fire and it just brought the awareness of the situation and more than one person said we never really realized what a grass fire did."
MacIntosh said the campaign was so successful, even more signs will be posted next year.
The dramatic reduction in grass fires in North Sydney was part of a trend across the entire Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
CBRM's deputy fire chief, Chris March, said firefighters got around 2,000 calls to attend grass fires two years ago.
Last year, that fell to about 440 and this spring it was under 300.
The season usually lasts from two to four weeks in the spring, before plants get green and moist.
March said the drop over the last two years is due in part to pandemic restrictions on people's movements and wet spring weather.
But he said public education, like the campaign in North Sydney, also plays a key role.
For example, before the pandemic hit, Glace Bay's volunteer chief, John Chant, was in schools telling children about the problems associated with grass fires, said March.
"We're getting to a point hopefully in the next few years that we'll be no longer calling it a grass fire season," he said.
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