Help prevent wildfires this long weekend
Unseasonably warm and dry conditions in parts of the province this spring have resulted in higher fire danger ratings in some areas, so British Columbians are urged to exercise caution with any allowed fire use over the Canada Day long weekend.
B.C.’s landscapes can dry out quickly and sometimes it doesn’t take much to spark a wildfire. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and unnecessarily divert crucial firefighting resources away from naturally occurring wildfires.
From April 1 through June 26, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 405 wildfires throughout B.C. About 293 of those fires (or about 70%) are believed to have been caused by people.
“I encourage everyone to enjoy the great outdoors this long weekend, but also to follow the rules and ensure that their activities don’t spark a wildfire,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Campfires are currently permitted throughout the province within the BC Wildfire Service’s jurisdiction, but larger Category 2 and Category 3 open fires are prohibited in some areas to reduce wildfire risks and protect public safety. The use of fireworks is also prohibited in some regions. Detailed information about current restrictions is available on the BC Wildfire Service website.
Local governments might also have their own burning restrictions or bylaws in place, so people should always check with local authorities before lighting any fire of any size.
Campfire safety and fire precautions:
* Never light a campfire or keep it burning in windy conditions. Weather can change quickly and 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 right down to the soil.
* Never leave a campfire unattended.
* Have a shovel or at least eight litres of water available to properly extinguish a campfire. Make sure that the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.
Anyone who lights a campfire is legally responsible for making sure it does not escape. That person could be held accountable for damages and fire suppression costs if their negligence results in a wildfire. Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail.
Anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike on Crown land must have a spark arrestor installed on the vehicle. Check the condition of the muffler, regularly clear build-ups of grass or other vegetation from hot spots, stay on dirt paths and avoid tall grass and weeds to help reduce wildfire risks.
Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking material responsibly, making sure that those materials are completely extinguished.
The government’s Natural Resource Officers and Conservation Officers conduct regular patrols throughout British Columbia to monitor high-risk activities. These officers also work closely with BC Wildfire Service staff to investigate the cause of wildfires and any improper use of fire.
* Mitigating wildfire risk is a shared responsibility. Individual British Columbians can play a critical role in mitigating wildfire risks on their properties by using FireSmart principles to increase the chances that their homes will survive a wildfire.
* The FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual was developed to help people reduce the risk of personal property damage due to wildfires. It contains numerous tips to reduce wildfire threats, including:
* clearing leaves and other flammable debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks;
* removing dead vegetation and other items from under a deck or porch, and within three metres of the house;
* screening or boxing in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials accumulating in those areas; and
* removing flammable materials (e.g., firewood piles, propane tanks) within 10 metres of a home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds.
To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.
The BC Wildfire Service thanks the public for its help in preventing wildfires. For the latest information on fire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit the BC Wildfire Service website: www.bcwildfire.ca.
Lead image: The Whitetail Creek wildfire in 2018. Image courtesy BCWS
Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and BC Wildfire Service