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Controlled burn. Photo: Wikipedia
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You may see smoke around TO’s High Park April 13

Park closed to vehicles for prescribed burn in Toronto’s High Park scheduled for April 13

The City of Toronto will conduct a prescribed burn in High Park on April 13, as current forecasts predict optimal weather conditions. High Park will be closed to vehicles starting at 7 a.m. and will be reopened once smoke has dissipated, likely by early evening. Public access around the burn sites and some surrounding areas will be temporarily restricted for safety.

Date: Thursday, April 13

Time: 10 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. (weather dependent)

Location: Grenadier Cafe parking lot, 200 Parkside Dr., High Park

Access: Media vehicles can only enter the park from the Parkside Drive and High Park Boulevard entrance. Media credentials will be required for entry.

A mandatory information briefing will be held in High Park immediately prior to the burn ignition, which will begin with an opening ceremony and smudge, led by Indigenous Elders Vivian Recollet and Henry Pitawanakwat, followed by an overview of plans for the burn and safety considerations for those in attendance. To respect the sacredness of the opening ceremony and smudge, no photographs or filming will be permitted during this time. 

Following the ceremony and smudge, City staff and consultants will continue the briefing, which can be recorded. A spokesperson will be on site and there will be an opportunity for media photography and filming after the start of the burn.

Throughout the day, there will be drumming and dancing as each site is ignited, which can be filmed and photographed from a safe distance.

A prescribed burn is a deliberately set and carefully controlled fire that burns low to the ground and consumes dried leaves, small twigs and grass stems, but does not harm larger trees. The City has been safely executing prescribed burns in High Park for almost two decades.

Prior to European settlement, controlled burns were used by Indigenous people to manage and maintain fire-dependent ecosystems including the black oak savannahs in High Park. In recognition of this, the City is engaged with Indigenous community representatives to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and practices, including an Indigenous ceremony, into the High Park burn.

In collaboration with Indigenous Land Stewardship Circle and Elder Henry Pitawanakwat, the High Park burn now holds the name of Biinaakzigewok Anishnaabeg, meaning “the responsibility for a cleansing fire by all Native Peoples” in Anishinaabemowin.

Prescribed burns are part of the City’s long-term management plan to protect and sustain Toronto’s rare black oak woodlands and savannahs. The City has contracted a fire boss with extensive experience in complex prescribed burns to create the 2023 burn plan and implement it with assistance from City staff. Toronto Fire Services and the Toronto Police Service have been notified and will assist if required.

Under ideal weather conditions, the smoke from the prescribed burns lifts and does not affect surrounding neighbourhoods. It is possible, however, that some smoke will reach residential areas near the park. People with asthma and those highly sensitive to poison ivy should limit their exposure to the smoke by staying inside and keeping windows closed. Some people may choose to leave the general area of the park on the day of the burn, if concerned about smoke.

Detailed information about the prescribed burn and restrictions are available on the City’s Prescribed Burn webpage: https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/water-environment/trees/forest-management/urban-forest-management/prescribed-burn/