With B.C. Day around the corner, everyone has a role to play in helping to prevent wildfires and having a safe, healthy long weekend.
Being aware of the status of parks and highways will help any travel plans go smoothly.
August is traditionally the most active part of the wildfire season. Given the number of fires currently burning in the province, along with elevated fire danger ratings and extremely dry conditions in many parts of the province, the BC Wildfire Service is urging British Columbians and visitors to remain vigilant regarding potential fire dangers.
From April 1 through Aug. 1, 2017, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 852 wildfires in B.C., 341 of which were caused by people. Human-caused fires – e.g., from improperly extinguished campfires, discarded cigarettes and sparking vehicles – are completely preventable and unnecessarily tie up crucial firefighting resources that could be used to deal with naturally occurring wildfires.
Campfire safety and fire-use precautions
The BC Wildfire Service continues to receive reports of illegal campfires. Campfires and open fires are banned throughout the province, with the exception of Haida Gwaii and the “Fog Zone” on the west side of Vancouver Island. A map of the Fog Zone is available online: http://ow.ly/bCJc30caIul Fireworks are banned.
The current open-fire prohibitions do not apply to CSA-rated or ULC-rated cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes, or to a portable campfire apparatus that uses briquettes, liquid or gaseous fuel, as long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres. Local governments may have their own burning restrictions or bylaws in place, so always check with local authorities before lighting any fire of any size.
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. These officers also work closely with BC Wildfire Service staff to investigate the cause of wildfires and any improper use of fire when an open burning prohibition is in effect. Patrols will be stepped up this weekend to educate the public about fire restrictions and issue violation tickets to people who are not complying with open burning prohibitions.
To report a wildfire or open-burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. To report suspicious activities, environmental damage or a natural-resource violation, call 1 877 952-RAPP (7277) or *7277 on a cellphone.
Detailed information about current open-fire restrictions is available on the BC Wildfire Service website: www.gov.bc.ca/wildfirebans
Ensuring proper maintenance on vehicles is also an important step in preventing potential risks for starting wildfires. Locked brakes, or dragging sway bars or safety chains on vehicles can create sparks.
Installing spark arrestors on all-terrain vehicles, checking the condition of mufflers, regularly clearing build-ups of grass or other vegetation from hot spots on the vehicle, staying on dirt paths and avoiding areas with tall grass and weeds will all help reduce wildfire risks. It’s also important to turn off propane in recreational equipment at the tank when travelling.
More information on wildfire prevention: www.gov.bc.ca/wildfireprevention
The BC Wildfire Service continues to receive reports of improperly discarded cigarettes. Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking material responsibly, making sure that these materials are completely extinguished. Smokers who drop lit or smouldering cigarettes or other items could face a $575 fine under the Wildfire Act.
Anyone found in contravention of an open-burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, may be required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, may be 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.
Health and Wellness
Air quality in B.C. continues to fluctuate due to wildfire activity. Poor air quality can be harmful to health, especially for children, older adults, and those with heart and lung conditions. Forest-fire smoke is a complex and dynamic mixture of gases and small particles that can irritate the respiratory system and cause systemic inflammation.
Here are some tips to help minimize health effects:
- If you have a chronic condition, have rescue medication on hand at all times and a plan to follow if your rescue medication cannot bring your condition under control.
- Look for indoor environments that might be less smoky, such as shopping malls, community centres and libraries.
- Avoid physical exertion because the amount of smoke you breathe increases as your breathing rate increases.
- Keep hydrated as it helps your body deal with inflammation.
If you are feeling unwell, you can call 811, a free-of-charge provincial health information and advice phone line available in British Columbia. If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911.
For more information on health and safety, see WorkSafeBC’s Wildfire Smoke FAQ online: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/what-to-do-if-evacuated-from-your-home
Know Before You Go – BC Parks
Most provincial parks remain open for recreational and camping activities. However, due to the serious nature of the current wildfire situation, BC Parks, in co-ordination with the BC Wildfire Service, has closed numerous parks to protect public safety.
Prior to closing parks, multiple factors are taken into consideration, such as weather conditions and forecasts, access routes, the presence of active fires, and fire-danger ratings. Wildfires are dynamic and circumstances can change quickly. BC Parks and the BC Wildfire Service assess situations on a daily basis.
British Columbians and visitors are urged to follow the instructions of BC Parks staff, BC Wildfire Service officials, the RCMP, conservation officers and other authorized personnel in the area. See an alphabetical list of B.C. parks and their status at: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parks/
BC Parks: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks
Discover Camping: https://secure.camis.com/Discovercamping/
Recreation Sites and Trails BC: www.sitesandtrailsbc.ca/default.aspx
Know Before You Go – Highways
Drivers can expect significantly higher traffic volumes and possible delays along provincial highways due to long-weekend travellers. All motorists are encouraged to plan their trip well in advance, allow for plenty of extra time and drive safely. For up-to-date route information, please visit: www.drivebc.ca or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/drivebc
Current Wildfire Activity
For up-to-date information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, call 1 888 3-FOREST or visit: www.bcwildfire.ca
For information on evacuation orders and alerts, stay tuned to your local authority’s public information channels, as well as Emergency Info BC for updates: www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/
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