Sudbury

Will campfires be permanently extinguished by climate change?

Sitting around a campfire is a big part of the northern Ontario summer. But some wonder if that tradition will be snuffed out as the planet warms and the risk of wildfires rises. Those questions are being mulled in provincial parks. 

Ontario Parks is asking users about backcountry fires, but says it has no plans for a ban

Ontario Parks users are being asked whether they think campfires should continue to be allowed in the backcountry of provincial parks. (Erik White/CBC )

Sitting around a campfire is a big part of the northern Ontario summer.

But some wonder if that tradition will be snuffed out as the planet warms and the risk of wildfires rises.

Those questions are being mulled right now in provincial parks. 

A customer survey asks people just back from canoe or hiking trips whether backcountry campfires should be allowed.

Leah Campbell, who speaks for Ontario Parks in the northeast, said this is just an information-gathering survey they circulate every few years.

She said the question was included because park services in other provinces and states do not permit fires in wilderness areas.

"However, to be noted, Ontario Parks doesn't have any current plans to ban or limit fires in the backcountry," said Campbell.

Avid camper and fisherman Jack Yard of Schumacher said he'd be sad to see a ban on fires. 

"Campfires and camping go hand in hand. It's very important to have one with the other," he says.

Yard said he finds provincial parks keep a relatively close eye on burning, but doesn't find the same for those camping on Crown land in northern Ontario. 

As the climate warms and the risk of forest fires increases, experts predict there will more restrictions on campfires, but likely not a permanent ban. (CBC )

Edward Struzik, author of Firestorm: How Our Future Will be Shaped by Wildfire, said more enforcement is a better solution than a permanent fire ban.

He'd like to see governments hire more staff to patrol parks and other wilderness areas, and doesn't buy the argument the bill would be too big for taxpayers to swallow.

"There's this assumption that everything costs too much, yet we're willing to spend enormous amounts of money suppressing fires and compensating people who have been forced to evacuate, who have lost their homes." 

But Struzik said people should definitely expect more temporary fire bans in the future, as northern Ontario summers get drier and hotter. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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