Ontario government commits $30.2 million to protect fire rangers from COVID-19
By PJ Boyd
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic heightening safety risks during the wildland fire season, the Ontario government is increasing funding for emergency forest firefighting by $30.2 million. This funding is meant to ensure that safety measures are in place to protect Ontario’s highly trained fire rangers from COVID-19.
Measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 among fire rangers will include following health and safety guidelines recommended by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and daily self-assessments by staff.
“This is an extraordinary period. As we put measures in place to protect our staff and the public from the pandemic, we have been taking additional steps to prepare for the wildland fire season,” says John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “Nothing is more important than protecting the safety of people and communities across the province. Although we want people to enjoy themselves, lifting the Restricted Fire Zone designation does not mean we can let our guard down when it comes to preventing human-caused forest fires.”
The Ontario government is also implementing precautions to help detect fires early through an aggressive approach in combating them so that they are kept as small as possible.
“Despite the challenges of these unprecedented times, Ontario’s emergency management personnel have been proactively working with partners to prepare for potential evacuations due to the wildland fire season,” says Sylvia Jones, solicitor general. “Public safety remains our top priority and our Provincial Emergency Operations Centre will continue to monitor forest fire situations with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and be ready to coordinate a response if called upon for evacuation assistance.”