Given the marked increase in wildfire activity in the Okanagan Valley and elsewhere in the province over the past week, the BC Wildfire Service is again urging the public to be extremely cautious with any allowed fire use.
From April 1, 2016, until noon yesterday, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 936 wildfires, 443 of which were caused by people. So far this year, over 99,317 hectares have been burned by these wildfires. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and divert crucial firefighting resources from naturally occurring wildfires.
The fire danger rating throughout B.C. is generally “moderate” to “high,” with some areas rated “extreme.” British Columbians are encouraged to do everything they can to prevent human-caused wildfires.
Campfires are currently prohibited throughout the Coastal Fire Centre (with the exception of Haida Gwaii and the area known as the “Fog Zone”), but are allowed throughout the rest of the BC Wildfire Service’s jurisdiction.
Category 2 and Category 3 open burning prohibitions are in effect in many areas of B.C. to help protect public safety. The use of fireworks and other devices is also prohibited in some regions. Detailed information about current bans and restrictions is available on the BC Wildfire Service website: http://bcfireinfo.for.gov.bc.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/Bans.asp
Local governments may also have their own burning restrictions in place, so people should always check with local authorities before lighting any fire of any size. A poster explaining the different categories of open burning is available online: http://ow.ly/jdO5301kS32
Here are some important campfire safety tips (if you’re in an area where campfires are allowed):
- Campfires cannot be larger than 0.5 metres high by 0.5 metres wide.
- Have a hand tool or at least eight litres of water available nearby to completely extinguish your campfire.
- Do not light a campfire or keep it burning in windy conditions. Weather can change quickly and the wind may carry embers to other combustible material.
- Maintain a fireguard around the campfire. This is a fuel-free area where all flammable materials (grass, kindling, etc.) have been removed.
- You must not leave a campfire unattended for any length of time.
- You must ensure that the campfire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.
Anyone operating motorized vehicles in the backcountry must also use caution, since the heat from an exhaust pipe could easily ignite a wildfire — especially in tall, dry grass.
The government’s natural resource officers and conservation officers conduct regular patrols throughout British Columbia, monitoring high-risk activities and looking out for potential damage and any improper use of fire when an open burning prohibition is in effect. These officers work closely with BC Wildfire Service staff, who investigate the cause of wildfires.
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson –
“This past week, we all saw how quickly the wildfire situation can change and how easily fires can spread. During this period of elevated wildfire risk, I ask all British Columbians to assist our BC Wildfire Service ground crews and air crews by being extra careful with any allowed fire use.”
- Anyone found in contravention of an open fire prohibition may be issued a ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.
- To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call
1 800 663-5555 toll-free or call *5555 on a cellphone.
- Homeowners can take simple steps to reduce wildfire risks on their properties by using FireSmart principles. Information about fire prevention and the FireSmart program, including the FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual and risk assessment checklist, is available online: http://ow.ly/UfWN301GYJW
For the latest information on fire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit the BC Wildfire Service website: www.bcwildfire.ca
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