With almost 570 wildfires under its belt already this season, the BC Wildfire Service is asking BC residents and visitors to be especially careful as they celebrate the Canada Day long weekend.
The hope is to avoid a record-setting 2017 wildfire season, one of the worst in the province’s history.
Last year’s fire season prompted a provincial State of Emergency being declared on July 7 and not rescinded until September 15, lasting 70 days.
It also resulted in more than 1.2 million hectares of land being burned and about 65,000 evacuations — and more than $568 million in costs.
This year is shaping up to be just as deadly.
From April 1 through June 27, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 568 wildfires, about 40% believed to be human-caused.
Human-caused fires, the service says, are completely preventable if a little common sense is employed:
- Although campfires are not yet prohibited, they must not be larger than half-a-metre high and half-a-metre 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 province’s natural resource officers and conservation officers will be conducting 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 cellphone.