Prevention In the forest

Did you know that forest fires caused by human activity have been dropping by 15 fires per year since 1984? The SOPFEU is making every effort to sustain this improvement by continuing to raise awareness. Read our tips for forest users.

Can I smoke in the forest?
Discarded cigarette butts, matches, and other smokers’ items are an important cause of forest fires, especially when vegetation is dry. If you smoke in the forest, you must discard all residue properly. Between April 1 and November 15, smoking in or near a forest is prohibited, whether you are working or travelling, unless you are in a building or a closed vehicle.

  • In order to avoid any risk, do not smoke while walking; find a clear area and stop while you smoke.
  • Extinguish your cigarette butt in water or stub it out on a rock. Discard it in a place intended for this purpose

Keep in mind! In spring, risks are located on the surface. Even if there is still snow, a smouldering cigarette butt can ignite dead leaves and grass on the ground.
Tips from the pros! Do not smoke when traveling in an all-terrain vehicle. This is prohibited by the Forest Protection Regulation.
What are the steps to follow in order to safely make a fire?

Campfires are the cause of numerous forest fires every year. Follow these steps to fully and safely enjoy your fire.

  1. PERPARE an open area on mineral soil, away from any combustible material (leaves, grass and so on).
  2. BUILD a fire no larger than 1 metre by 1 metre in size.
  3. KEEP AN EYE on the fire and have water at hand at all times.
  4. PUT OUT the fire by dousing the site thoroughly and stirring the embers.
  5. ENSURE that embers are cold to the touch.

Keep in mind! A fire will not go out on its own. Hot embers can be reignited by the wind.
Tips from the pros! Do not hesitate to touch the ashes to make sure that the fire is out. If you are unsure, pour more water on the fire!
How can I know the right time to light a fire?
Please note that if there is a preventive measure such as a burning permit suspension or an open fires ban, this takes priority over the indicator that the fire danger would provide you. Check the restrictions in effect before going to the forest.

The SOPFEU fire danger rating is a good guideline to follow! The appropriate behaviour to adopt for each level of fire danger is laid out below.

  • LOW: Low-intensity fire with limited spread, now is the right time to light your campfire
  • MODERATE: Moderately spreading surface fire that can be generally well-controlled, only build small fires (1m X 1m maximum).
  • HIGH: Moderate to vigorous surface fire that poses control challenges for ground crews, do not light on if the wind speed is above 20 km/h.
  • VERY HIGH: High-intensity with partial or complete ignition of the tree crowns. Conditions at the fire front are beyond the suppression capacity of ground crews, only make fires in installations equipped with a regulatory spark arrester.
  • EXTREME: High-intensity crown fire that spreads at high speed and can get out of control, avoid making fires.

Download our infographic here

You will find the fire danger index on our interactive map and our mobile application. Many municipalities also post it on their websites.

Do not forget! When lighting, be sure to use suitable equipment or stand on a mineral ground away from any combustible material.
Pro tip! Download the SOPFEU mobile application (available for iOS and Android). Save your municipality in your favourites and be informed at all times of the fire danger in your area. 
What is an “open-air fire”?
Any fire burning freely or that can freely spread. Examples of open-air fires are fireworks and flame and spark producing tools (such as welding tools).

The following are not considered to be an open fire: Propane or ethanol fireplaces.  These facilities may be used in the event of a ban.

Fires burning in facilities intended for this purpose and equipped with spark arrestor screens, such as stoves, fireplaces, and metal containers, are not considered to be open-air fires. In order to comply with prevailing standards, spark arrestor openings must be no wider than 1 centimetre. 

Here is what is and what is not allowed in the case of a ban on open fires.

Please note! Fires that are set on a dirt or gravel floor AND in a firebox equipped with a spark arrester (with maximum openings of 1 cm by 1 cm) are permitted.
However, we invite you to consult your municipality. Your municipality may have stricter regulations that will take precedence over the MFFP regulations.
* Outdoor propane or ethanol fireplaces are not targeted by the open fire ban because they do not produce sparks.


What does “proximity to the forest” mean?

Regarding forest protection, the Law on Sustainable Forest Management and its regulations apply in or in the vicinity of the forest.

But what does the expression “in the vicinity of the forest” or “proximity to the forest” mean?

(Particularly in the case of an open fire ban or in the issuing of burning permits.)

The law and regulations do not clearly define it. Proximity to the forest can be relative, so there is no strict definition. However, it can be said that you are in proximity to the forest if there is a possibility that your fire will reach the forest should you lose control of it. Whether it is through the spreading of firebrands or through the ignition of ground fuels (brush, grass, etc.), if there is a risk that your fire could reach the forest you are considered to be in the vicinity of it.

However, be aware that the risk of spread is linked to several elements such as weather conditions, time of day and type of fuel. For example, the windier it is the greater the risk.

In the spring, you must be particularly vigilant. Surface fuel, such as dry grass, twigs or moss, ignites easily and can spread a fire to the surrounding forest. You may be closer to the forest than you think and therefore it’s not a question of distance, but of risk.

If you are in doubt, it is probably because you are too close to the forest.

A fire in an urban area, a fire in an open area, or a fire in the middle of a field far away from a forest are examples of open fires where the restrictions would not apply.

In municipal territory, municipal by-laws must also be considered, which may be more restrictive than those proposed by the SOPFEU and enforced by the MFFP.