BC Wildfire Service sets out safety reminder

“Last summer’s unprecedented wildfires highlight the need to always be careful with any fire use.”

Last week’s record-high temperatures, widespread lightning storms and a dramatic spike in wildfire activity served as stark reminders of how quickly British Columbia’s landscapes can dry out, and how important it is to prevent human-caused wildfires.

From April 1 through June 27, 2018, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 568 wildfires in B.C., of which about 40 per cent are believed to have been caused by people. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and unnecessarily divert crucial firefighting resources away from naturally occurring wildfires.

“Last summer’s unprecedented wildfire season highlights the need to always be careful with any fire use,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “I encourage everyone to be responsible as they are enjoying B.C.’s beautiful outdoors this Canada Day long weekend.”

Campfires are currently permitted throughout the province, 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.

Local governments might also have their own burning restrictions or bylaws in place, so always check with local authorities before lighting any fire of any size.

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, 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 that the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.

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 these materials are completely extinguished.

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.

Anyone who lights a campfire is legally responsible for making sure it doesn’t escape. That person could be held accountable for damages and fire suppression costs if his or her 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 $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail.

To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cell phone.

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