New Brunswick

Snow could put a damper on forest fire season

Forest fire season could be shorter than usual this year after all the snow New Brunswick received this winter.

Forest fires normally start about now, but the season might be shorter than usual after the snow this winter

Many Maritimers still like to burn grass, believing incorrectly that it helps lawns grow in better in the spring, fire officials say. (Courtesy of P.E.I. Department of Communities, Land and Environment)

Oh the weather outside is frightful — but that could mean a shorter forest fire season.

Earlier this month, the province reminded New Brunswickers the start of the forest fire season was near.

But the snow that fell on the province this week and over the winter may have pushed the start back a bit.

"It goes away quickly but the forest fire season can start quickly also," Roger Collet, the province's wildfire prevention officer, said on Information Morning Fredericton.

The season typically runs from the third Monday in April until Oct. 31.  

"Whether it's two weeks early, two weeks later, generally it happens every year," Collet said.

Overall, he expects a fairly quiet season, similar to last year. The department will just have to wait and see as the weeks unfold, he said.

"We can't tell until we're actually there."

What does it mean for New Brunswickers?

Residents interested in burning grass require permits, Collet said. The government website says they also require written burn plans and pre-inspection by a forest service officer.

Residents can also call the New Brunswick forest fire burn line number at 1-866-458-8080 to see if the province is open for burning.

If a grass fire is started without a permit, a conservation officer can fine a person up to $172, which Collet said happens often. There are also be criminal penalties for not following the province's burning regulations.

Awareness level rose

He said several reports came in last year during the fires in Fort McMurray, Alta.

"A lot of people were aware of fire in the province," he said.

If New Brunswickers want to have a campfire outdoors, they don't need a permit but should check the government website on whether there are any restrictions.

The province has had an average of 235 forest fires a year over the past 10 years.

In 2016, there were 285 forest fires across the province.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton