Haliburton County is under a total fire ban after five blazes within a 12-hour period May 15 saw the region’s four fire chiefs come together to declare an extreme fire risk.

The ban came into effect 12:01 a.m. May 17. In a release to media, the chiefs say dry conditions, high heat and lack of forecasted rain played a factor in their decision.

So too did three fires in Minden Hills and one each in Algonquin Highlands and Dysart et al Monday.

Minden chief, Shain Duda, said firefighters first responded to a structure fire along South Lake Road, fronting Canning Lake, at approximately 11:15 a.m. Eleven volunteers responded, while Duda called in Dysart for mutual aid. Eight firefighters from Dysart attended.

“It was a total loss of the property. It started as a structure fire and worked its way into a small bush fire. We were able to push everything back and save two buildings on properties side-by-side to the fire,” Duda said.

As his team were wrapping up, they received another call at around 2:45 p.m. for a bush fire on Black Lake. By the time Duda arrived, he estimated the fire was around one hectare. He called in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for assistance, with staff flying in a water bomber to help tackle the blaze. Once MNRF officials arrived, it was determined the fire was on provincial land, so they took control of the situation.

Duda said by 6 p.m. May 15 the fire had grown to 2.5 hectares, and by 4 p.m. May 16 was approximately nine hectares. MNRF staff in Stanhope said the fire was still raging as of 1 p.m. May 17, spanning approximately nine hectares. A cause has not yet been determined.

Minden Hills coun. Pam Sayne said the fire came close to claiming a bunkie on her cottage property. She was attending a meeting in Lindsay when her phone started pinging with notifications that the sensor on a camera she has installed on her property was being set off.

Open fires, campfires, fireworks banned

“The camera showed dense smoke in the air. I called 911… after the water bombers quit loading on the lake, I went over to evaluate the situation. Several cottages were saved,” she said.

Duda responded to a third call just after 6 p.m. for a small bush fire on Mountain Lake. That was caused by a tree falling on a hydro pole and was extinguished by around 8 p.m.

“It’s been one of the busiest days I’ve had as fire chief. I want to thank our crew for working all day, not just on one fire, not just doing one task, but sticking around for all three incidents. They did an amazing job and I’m proud of them,” Duda said.

Algonquin Highlands fire chief Mike French said he had five stations and 35 firefighters respond to a bush fire off Hwy. 35 near the intersection of Kawagama Lake Road at around 2:15 p.m Monday. He said the fire threatened multiple structures, including the Dorset Tower.

“We tackled it well. There were no injuries, no structural damage. The fire ended up being five hectares and all bush,” he said, noting it wasn’t being treated as suspicious.

French thanked local employers for releasing volunteer members to tackle the blaze.

“It could have been a lot worse [without the] response we got,” he said.

Shortly after returning from assisting with fires in Minden Hills, Dysart chief Dan Chumbley received a call about a small bush fire along Chalet Road near Eagle Lake at around 4 p.m. Firefighters were on site for two hours, with the half-acre blaze extinguished by 6 p.m.

Due to the fire ban, all burn permits are cancelled while open fires, campfires and fireworks are prohibited. The ban will remain in place indefinitely, with Duda saying the four chiefs will touch base daily to reassess.

“Conditions are extremely risky for fire right now. We saw with the Black Lake situation how quickly a fire can spread. The chiefs will keep our communication lines open, see what’s going on, what the weather is looking like and will provide updates as and when necessary,” Duda said.