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Help prevent wildfires on the B.C. Day long weekend

BC Wildfire encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors responsibly to ensure their activities don't trigger new fires to fight.— Photo courtesy Madeline Guenette

With increasing temperatures and drier conditions in many parts of the province, British Columbians are urged to do everything they can to prevent wildfires on the B.C. Day long weekend and in the weeks ahead.

While wildfire activity so far this year has been relatively normal, the month of August is typically the most active part of B.C.'s wildfire season. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and unnecessarily divert crucial firefighting resources from naturally occurring wildfires. From April 1 until noon on July 31, 2019, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 579 wildfires throughout B.C., 58% of which were human-caused.

"BC Wildfire Service crews have been doing a great job attacking this year's fires quickly and decisively, but it's important that we don't get complacent about wildfire risks," said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

"I encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors responsibly this weekend and ensure that their activities don't trigger new fires."

In the Southeast Fire Centre, there are only a handful of fires burning — the most pressing is the Janzen Creek, located near Kuskonook on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake. The 5.3 hectare fire is now under control.

Campfires are currently allowed in all areas of the province that fall under the BC Wildfire Service's jurisdiction. Nonetheless, people are urged to practise responsible fire use by assessing their environment and keeping an ample supply of water nearby to fully extinguish any recreational fire they light. Information about current open burning prohibitions is available on the BC Wildfire Service website at: www.gov.bc.ca/wildfirebans

Local governments and other jurisdictional authorities (e.g. BC Parks) may also have their own burning restrictions or bylaws in place. It is important that people check with these local authorities before lighting any fire.

Campfire safety and fire precautions:

  • Campfires must not be larger than 0.5 metres high or 0.5 metres wide.
  • 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, leaves, 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 your campfire.
  • Make sure the ashes are cool to the touch before retiring for the night or leaving the area for any length of time.

Other precautions:

  • 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 buildups 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 materials responsibly, ensuring those materials are completely extinguished.

The government's conservation officers conduct regular patrols throughout British Columbia, while natural resource officers from the Compliance and Enforcement Branch work closely with BC Wildfire Service staff to investigate the cause of wildfires and any improper fire use when an open burning prohibition is in effect.

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 up to $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.

To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. For up-to-date information on wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, call 1 888 3-FOREST or visit BC  Wildfire.