USA — A countywide burn ban has been issued following Tuesday afternoon’s massive grassfire in DouroDummer Township.
Douro-Dummer fire chief Mike Keough said the fire began when a County Rd. 40 resident, burning materials in a pit, lost control of the fire.
The resident had water around the pit, Keough said.
But strong winds grabbed the flames and pushed the fire into a nearby field.
Before the day was out, flames had ripped through 400 acres of long, dead grass and debris, destroying fences and trees as it travelled from County Rd. 40 to the Eighth Line of Dummer.
Keough estimates the fire was about three-quarters of a mile, or 1.2 kilometres, wide.
“I’ve been on the fire department for 38 years, and I have never seen anything like this,” he said.
Crews from Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield, Galway-Cavendish and Harvey, Cavan-Millbrook, Otonabee-South Monaghan, Asphodel-Norwood and Havelock-Belmont-Methuen all responded to Douro-Dummer’s request for help.
Keough said it took 40 firefighters about five hours to contain the flames.
“If we didn’t have that aid, we would still be there.”
Every time crews managed to stop the fire on one side, he said, the wind pushed everything in another direction.
Efforts to quench the blaze were hindered by the soft earth.
Keough said it was difficult to get fire trucks across the fields, to where they needed to be.
In the end, he said, they used all-wheel drive vehicles to get at the flames.
Keough said there were two farmhouses directly in the path of the blaze.
Fire crews stationed themselves at those homes, heading off the flames and preventing any property damage.
The person who lost control of the fire pit isn’t facing any charges or fines.
Keough said he wants to be fair, and acknowledged that the situation was an accident.
He pointed out that people pay for fire services in their taxes.
Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield fire chief Gord Jopling said fire chiefs across Peterborough County agreed to jointly issue the ban Tuesday night, once the fire was dealt with.
Jopling said the ban is in place until further notice, likely until the end of the month.
Grass fires are common, he said, but this spring has been bad and Tuesday’s grass fire was one of the worst he’s heard of in a long time.
Part of the problem, he said, is the amount of heavy, thick, old grass lying on fields.
That kind of grass can build of a lot of heat when it burns, he said, and when any wind moves through, it picks up the flame and pushes it.
“It doesn’t take much, with the wind, to get it up and going.”
Keough said fire departments rely on people using common sense when it comes to fires.
All burn barrels should be covered with a screen, he said.
Anyone burning anything should always have a way to put that fire out quickly, he said, like pails of water nearby.
Jopling also recommended that people take care when tossing cigarette butts out.