Town of Erin sees large increase in grass fires

ERIN – Council here received the second quarterly fire and emergency services report which revealed a large increase in grass fires around the town.

The Erin fire department has reported 14 grass fires this year, compared to only two last year and four in 2019.

During a July 20 meeting, fire chief Jim Sawkins explained grass fires have gone up significantly in the last two years which he attributed largely to the pandemic.

“I would say its COVID, people at home,” he explained. “They’re getting to cleaning up their yards. The reality of it is, they’re not supposed to be burning the brush, it’s not part of the bylaw.”

He added its increased number of burning complaints with thick smoke affecting the neighbours, in addition to increasing the amount of illegal fires occurring.

“The medical assists are down significantly,” Mayor Allan Alls noted, asking, “is that related to the fact that we have the ambulance here more often now?”

A total of 22 calls for medical assistance were recorded this year, in comparison to 39 last year and 74 in 2019.

Sawkins responded the assists were down due to two factors: because the town has the ambulance 24/7 and due to the pandemic.

“We’re still under COVID protocols so our tiered response agreement with the paramedics, both Dufferin and Guelph, have limited the number of calls that we are going to,” he explained to council.

Sawkins also noted there was a fire at a recently-approved development left unattended, which the fire department dealt with.

Having previously presented monthly reports, Sawkins said he elected to go to a quarterly report to draw a more accurate comparison year to year, noting the data for Erin and Hillsburgh includes stations 10 and 50 and East Garafraxa covers station 50.

Roads department update

The Town of Erin spent $17,000 on snow removal during the 2021 winter season, according to the infrastructure services quarterly report.

Council heard from the town’s director of infrastructure services and engineer Nick Colucci as he presented an overview of the town’s roads department activities for the first half of 2021.

During that period, town staff received 2,163 service requests, which councillor John Brennan found concerning.

“Staff have addressed 2,163 service requests in 2021, which sounds like a lot of work to me, but is this a typical quarter?” Brennan asked.

“Lots of people are at home and I think our number of requests are higher this year than previous years,” Colucci responded.  “This is every service request, from the plow hitting a mailbox to a dead skunk on the road.

“We have lots of different service requests and each one requires a different amount of work,” adding there are about 300 work orders per month with each one requiring a certain about of time.

“So that’s a lot of work orders per day that staff are dealing with.”

Staff completed snow removal twice this winter, although Colucci noted the town’s budget increased last year to allow for four removals.

Removals are dependent on snow accumulation or at the request of the BIA and downtown businesses.

“We went in with our own staff on a few occasions just to clean up certain areas where there was some build up and it was affecting one or two businesses,” Colucci added.

“After March 8 we didn’t have snow, so if we had snow in March, we probably would have had to go out one more time,” he explained. “We had a lot of freeze thaw happening in February so that reduced the snow banks.”

The report noted the Station Street Bridge is complete and the town is working with the contractor to finish some minor outstanding items.

A contract has been awarded for repair work on Bridge 11, near Sideroad 17 and Eighth Line. The work is expected to begin before the end of July, resulting in a road closure of roughly six weeks.

Catch basin flushing work will also begin this month and will take two weeks. Line painting work is already underway and is expected to be completed by the end of July.