A ban on recreational fires comes into effect at noon on Wednesday. Black Press file photo

A ban on recreational fires comes into effect at noon on Wednesday. Black Press file photo

Island fire chief urges residents to respect fire ban

Prohibition on recreational fires went into effect today at noon

A Vancovuer Island fire chief is urging locals to respect the fire ban that went into effect today at noon – a prohibition covering all recreational fires, including beach fires, campfires and even backyard fires on private property.

“It is extremely important the public abide by the ban to prevent the risk of wildfire in our community,” said Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty in an email to the Mirror.

He stressed that fires can spread rapidly in current arid conditions.

“Sparks and embers can travel great distances, igniting spot fires in unexpected areas,” he said, noting that 69 per cent of wildfires since the beginning of April were caused by people.

Beach-goers will have little excuse for ignoring the prohibition: signs will be posted near beaches advising the public about the ban, he said.

In a media release, Doherty said the fire department would continue monitoring conditions locally.

“If the weather changes and the risk drops enough, we will certainly let people know when and how they can have recreational fires in Campbell River,” he said.

The local prohibition comes as a response to a ban that comes into effect today for Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland and the Gulf Islands.

Campfires and category-three fires – open fires larger than 2 metres high by 3 metres wide – will still be permitted in Haida Gwaii and in the “fog zone” – an area of the Island’s western coast stretching roughly from Port Renfrew to Port Hardy. Fires are permitted along the strip within two kilometres of the highest tide line.

The prohibitions apply to all public and private land, unless specified otherwise in local government bylaws.

The ban covers everything from open fires to unauthorized stoves or campfire gear, tiki torches, fireworks, sky lanterns, burning barrels and “binary exploding targets,” which are used for rifle target practice.

CSA and ULC-approved cooking stoves and campfire apparatus are still permitted, as long as flames don’t go higher than 15 centimetres.

The fog zone, highlighted in purple, is exempt from the campfire ban as long as the area is within two kilometres of the highest tide line. (Coastal Fire Centre)

The ban comes into effect as the days get hotter, with no indication of rain in the immediate forecast.

Nathasha Broznitsky, fire information officer at the Coastal Fire Centre, said this year isn’t as bad as 2017.

“The province in general was quite a lot drier this time last year,” Broznitsky said.

“We had more rain in June than last year, and while the fire danger rating is largely high, in general we are doing less bad.”

But since the beginning of April, almost 70 per cent of wildfires in the Coastal Fire Centre area – a vast region reaching as far as Tweedsmuir Park in northern B.C. – have been caused by humans.

Those fires deprive firefighters of badly needed resources, according to a media release from the BC Wildfire Service.

“Human-caused wildfires are entirely preventable, and can divert critical firefighting resource away from naturally occurring wildfires,” the agency said in a statement announcing the ban .

Anyone found in contravention of the ban could be handed a $1,150 ticket, along with an “administrative penalty” of $10,000. If convicted in court, fire starters could face a $100,000 fine and a year in jail.

And a person found responsible for a wildfire may even be on the hook for “all firefighting and associated costs,” according to the BC Wildfire Service.

For the most up-to-date information on fire bans, you can head to bcwildfire.ca. The agency also posts updates on its Twitter and Facebook feeds.

And if you need to report a forest fire or burning violation, you can call 1-800-663-5555 or text *5555.

-With files from Nicole Crescenzi, Victoria News.

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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