Public urged to stay away from active wildfire areas

By Contributor
July 13th, 2017

The BC Wildfire Service is urging members of the public to stay away from active wildfires wherever they may be in the province.

British Columbia’s fire management professionals, hardworking firefighters, aircraft crews and contracted firefighters need plenty of room to do this challenging work.

The presence of unauthorized people in these areas represents a significant safety threat – not only for the people attempting to gain access, but also for the crew members who need to concentrate on containing and extinguishing these fires.

The public is reminded that they are not permitted to enter areas where an area restriction order is in place and they should also avoid going near any active wildfire site. This is a great concern for the BC Wildfire Service, given the inherent risks associated with wildfires. Although some people may feel compelled to “help out”, they can actually interfere with and delay firefighting efforts.

Many of the fires currently burning in British Columbia have displayed aggressive, volatile and unpredictable fire behaviour. It is extremely unsafe for people other than authorized and trained personnel to go near these fires.

Other concerns include the use of drones and watercraft near wildfires:

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs):

* Transport Canada and the BC Wildfire Service explicitly prohibit the use of drones of any size near a wildfire.

* All wildfires are automatically considered to be “flight restricted”, according to Canadian Aviation Regulations. The restricted area is within a radius of five nautical miles around the fire and to an altitude of about 3,000 feet above ground level.

* The operation of any aircraft not associated with fire suppression activities within this area, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones), is illegal.

* The presence of drones near an active wildfire can slow down or completely shut down aerial firefighting efforts due to safety concerns. This has happened a few times in recent years and hampered the Province’s firefighting response.

* This type of activity is extremely dangerous and poses a significant safety risk to personnel, especially when low-flying firefighting aircraft are present. If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft, the consequences could be deadly.

* There is zero tolerance for people who fly drones in active wildfire areas. The rules regarding drone use are very clear and simple to understand.

* In the interest of air crew and public safety, British Columbians are asked to use common sense and keep their drones well away from wildfires.

* The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over aeronautics, as administered by Transport Canada. Anyone caught operating a drone within an active wild site could be fined $25,000 or jailed for up to 18 months.

Use of boats where firefighting aircraft are working:

* When firefighting aircraft such as airtankers or helicopters are working on an active wildfire and picking up water from nearby lakes, they need plenty of room to manoeuvre to do their job safely.

* Recreational boaters or people using other watercraft who try to get a close-up look at these aircraft or a fire present a serious safety risk for air crews and anyone else in the area.

* This behaviour is extremely dangerous and interferes with the BC Wildfire Service’s ability to operate, since a pilot cannot collect water when a boat is blocking its intended flight path.

* In the interest of air crew and public safety, people are urged to use common sense and keep their boats well away from areas where airtankers or helicopters are operating.

The safety of firefighting personnel crews is a top priority, along with protecting the public, property and our communities. The BC Wildfire Service appreciates the public’s co-operation to help keep everyone safe.

To report a wildfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, go to: http://www.bcwildfire.ca

You can also follow the latest wildfire news on:

* Twitter: http://twitter.com/BCGovFireInfo

* Facebook: http://facebook.com/BCForestFireInfo

Categories: General


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