March 24, 2020, Simcoe, ON – Norfolk County’s interim Fire Chief has ordered temporary restrictions to the burning of leaves and yard waste in an effort to keep as many firefighters available for service during the COVID-19 pandemic as possible.

The restrictions mean residents with a burn permit will be temporarily unable to burn yard waste such as leaves, branches and grass.

Over the past weekend alone, more than 50 firefighters responded to non-emergency calls related to the burning of yard waste, forcing them to abandon social distancing protocols and putting them at risk of infection and mandatory self-isolation.

“It is absolutely critical that we keep as many first responders available for emergency calls as possible during this pandemic,” says Mayor Kristal Chopp. “Every non-emergency call you make takes our firefighters out of action, and puts them at serious health risk. That’s why I’m calling on everyone in Norfolk to avoid burning anything until further notice.”

The restrictions were ordered under the authority of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act 1997 and the Ontario Fire Code 2007 as amended.

No new permits will be issued during this time period and this directive will remain in place until further notice.

Responses to yard waste fires will be subject to either a cost recovery invoice of $486 per responding fire truck per hour and could result in charges under the Ontario Fire Code that carry maximum fines of $50,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations.

Before calling 911 to report a grass fire or perceived illegal open air burn, members of the public should consider the situation and make every reasonable effort to ensure they are reporting an actual emergency.

All of our firefighters thank you for your efforts to keep them safely distanced and healthy by limiting the amount of non-emergency calls they are responding to.