Weekend blaze reminds of out-of-control grass fire threat

Grass fires in rural areas can quickly get out of control despite recent rainfall and snow-flurry activity, Neebing's emergency services department warned after one weekend blaze required intervention by firefighters. Neebing municipal firefighters were called to a property at the corner of Highway 61 and Valley Road on Saturday night after an ember from a "burn barrel" ignited a section of grass. "The (property) owner was able to slow, but not stop, the fire's progress with available on-scene fire extinguishing equipment," a Neebing Emergency Services news release said late on Monday. About a dozen firefighters put out the blaze, which caused minor damage to the wall of a workshop, the news release said. Though the property owner possessed a burn permit, the municipality says the incident is a cautionary tale. "This fire is a reminder that in spite of recent rains, our area remains in a moisture-deficit condition from low precipitation levels during the past year," the news release said. It added: "Fine fuels such as grasses can dry quickly with a little sun and wind (and) fine fuel-fires spread very quickly and are difficult to stop without proper equipment." The province's Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services agency echoed that concern. "It's a good time to remind the public of the spring fire hazard, and the risk of human-caused fires, while grass fuels are dry and leaves have yet to emerge on trees," a regional agency spokeswoman said on Tuesday. "Fires will typically occur where people live, work, or recreate, so residents must take necessary precautions to prevent unwanted wildland fires that could harm people or damage property," she added. In its latest bulletin about the Northwestern Ontario wildfire scene, the agency said a fire near Red Lake had grown to less than a hectare in size before it was declared out on Monday. A cause of that fire wasn't immediately available. In March, Oliver Paipoonge imposed its own ban on daytime burning in advance of the April 1 start to wildfire season due to excessively dry conditions. Starting April 1, daytime burning for brush-clearing and other activities is banned across the province until wildfire season ends on Oct. 31. During wildfire season, "fires are to be ignited no sooner than two hours before sunset and are to be extinguished no later than two hours after sunrise," the Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services agency said.

Carl Clutchey, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, The Chronicle-Journal