Outdoor fires banned locally as pandemic precaution

Hot dogs roasting over a campfire. © Can Stock Photo / who10

The City of Sarnia and Village of Point Edward issued emergency orders Friday afternoon banning outdoor fires during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Mike Bradley signed an order prohibiting recreational fires, open fires or cooking fires within the city boundaries.

Mayor Bev Hand of Point Edward issued a similar order, and Aamjiwnaang First Nation was expected to do the same.

Natural gas or propane appliances, such as outdoor heaters and BBQs, are still allowed.

Sarnia Fire Chief Brian Arnold told Sue Storr on CHOK (103.9 FM, 1070 AM) Friday that they’re looking to protect firefighters and discourage people from gathering.

“Neighbours who have been cooped up in their houses that want to get out, want to enjoy the nice weather and relax around a campfire in the backyard, we understand that, but we also see that it raises the opportunity for neighbours to gather together and we want to prevent that from happening,” said Arnold. “Secondly we want to reduce the opportunity for exposure of my firefighters.”

Arnold said they’ve taken several steps to reduce exposure to COVID-19.

Sarnia Fire Chief Brian Arnold Oct. 8, 2019. (Photo courtesy of City of Sarnia)

Sarnia Fire Chief Brian Arnold Oct. 8, 2019. (Photo courtesy of City of Sarnia)

“We’ve reduced our medical calls that we were responding to in the community so that we can continue to focus on our core services such as fire suppression and rescues. We’ve cut right back on that in that effort to reduce the exposure and to steward and preserve our personal protection equipment for as long as possible.”

Arnold said in all his years as a firefighter, he’s never experienced anything like this.

“I worked through SARS when I was in Toronto and I’ve been involved in pandemic planning previously, but to see the level, the degree of seriousness of this outbreak, it’s quite unique. It’s a new experience for everybody,” he said.

The fire chief also said that with so many people at home, and restaurants closed except for takeout, more people are cooking. He reminds residents to always stay in the kitchen when cooking and avoid distractions.

-With files from Sue Storr