Heat sparks Okanagan campfire ban

Summer tradition extinguished - campfires banned throughout the region

A summer tradition has been extinguished.

Extremely dry and hot conditions have forced the provincial government and all municipalities and electoral areas to ban campfires.

“It’s an issue of public safety and that’s our first priority,” said Melissa Welsh, with the provincial Kamloops Fire Centre.

The Ministry of Forests’ open burning prohibition covers all B.C. parks and Crown and private  land outside of areas with fire protection.

Most communities are also banning campfires, including Vernon.

“This step is being taken to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety,” said Tanya Laing Gahr, Vernon’s communications co-ordinator.

Others initiating a ban are Lumby, the Regional District of North Okanagan, Spallumcheen, Lake Country, Enderby, the Splatsin First Nation, the Okanagan Indian Band, Armstrong, the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District and the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

Open burning, other than with a permit, is not permitted in Coldstream at any time.

The ban applies to open fires of any size, fires with a burn registration number, industrial burning, fireworks, tiki torches and burning barrels. The prohibition does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes.

It was decided to ban campfires because if they spread, they divert firefighting resources away from blazes caused by lightning.

“They (lighting) require more than initial attack crews. We need to cut down on human-caused fires,” said Welsh.

Under provincial rules, anyone violating an open fire ban may be issued a ticket for up to $345. Anyone who causes a wildfire through arson or recklessness, may be fined up to $1 million, spend up to three  years in prison and be accountable for associated firefighting  costs.