Drought conditions and aggressive fire behaviour have contributed to this year’s extreme wildfire season.
With more than 200 fires burning in B.C., the public is urged to remain vigilant and ensure their activities don’t spark any new fires over the Labour Day long weekend.
“Our wildfire crews still have significant work ahead of them to bring existing wildfires under control as they work to keep British Columbians safe,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Let’s not add human-caused fires to their workload during this long and challenging fire season.”
From April 1 to Sept. 1, 2021, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 1,562 wildfires that have so far burned more than 865,000 hectares — one of the province’s most destructive fire seasons on record.
Anyone planning to spend time outdoors in the coming days and weeks is encouraged to use caution with any activity that could potentially start a wildfire. Human-caused fires are preventable and can divert firefighting resources from naturally occurring wildfires or fires that are already burning.
Campfires are currently allowed within the BC Wildfire Service’s jurisdiction in the following areas:
- all of the Northwest Fire Centre
- all of the Cariboo Fire Centre
- all of the Prince George Fire Centre
- most of the Southeast Fire Centre (with the exception of the Boundary Fire Zone)
- Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast area (i.e., the North Island-Central Coast Forest District) within the Coastal Fire Centre
Effective at noon on Sept. 3, 2021, campfires will be allowed in most of the Coastal Fire Centre’s jurisdiction (with the exception of the South Island Natural Resource District).
Larger Category 2 and Category 3 open burns remain prohibited throughout British Columbia.
- Campfires are currently prohibited in many parts of the province. Get up-to-date information about open burning restrictions in B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/wildfirebans
- People should also check with local governments and other authorities (such as BC Parks) to see if any burning restrictions or bylaws are in effect within those jurisdictions.
- Where campfires are allowed, they 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 that the ashes are cool to the touch before retiring for the night or leaving the area for any length of time.
- A poster that explains B.C.’s open fire regulations (including campfire use) is available online: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/wildfire-status/fire-bans-and-restrictions/7539_openburningregs_posterupdate_webfile.pdf
Off-road vehicle use:
- Anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle on or within 300 metres of forested land or rangeland must have a spark arrestor installed on the vehicle.
- To help reduce wildfire risks, 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.
- More information about off-road vehicle use is available online: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/fire-bans-and-restrictions
Use of drones near wildfires:
- Transport Canada and the BC Wildfire Service prohibit the use of drones of any size near a wildfire. All wildfires are automatically considered to be “flight restricted,” according to Canadian Aviation Regulations. The restricted area is within a radius of five nautical miles around the fire and to an altitude of 3,000 feet.
- The operation of any aircraft not associated with fire suppression activities within this area, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones), is illegal.
- The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over aeronautics, as administered by Transport Canada. Anyone caught operating a drone that interferes with fire control could be fined up to $100,000, jailed for up to one year or both.
Use of boats and other watercraft where firefighting aircraft are in use:
- When firefighting aircraft, such as airtankers or helicopters, are working on an active wildfire and picking up water from nearby lakes, they need plenty of room to manoeuvre to do their job safely. Recreational boaters or people using other watercraft who try to get a close look at these aircraft present a serious safety risk for air crews and anyone else in the area.
- This behaviour is extremely dangerous and interferes with the BC Wildfire Service’s ability to fight a fire, since a pilot cannot collect water when surface craft are in the aircraft’s intended flight path.
- In the interest of air crew and public safety, use common sense and keep boats well away from areas where airtankers or helicopters are operating.
- People operating a watercraft where firefighting aircraft are working could receive a violation ticket under the Wildfire Act that carries a fine of $1,150 or could be assessed an administrative penalty of up to $100,000.
- Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking materials responsibly, ensuring that they are completely extinguished.
- People intending to travel anywhere in the province should first check for road closures, evacuation alerts and evacuation orders, and other prohibitions such as BC Parks closures. They should not travel to areas that are subject to evacuation alerts or evacuation orders.
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 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: www.bcwildfire.ca
Follow the latest wildfire news:
The BC Wildfire Service mobile app provides real-time updates about wildfire activity in the province, including push notifications and “wildfires near me” information. The app is free and available for Apple and Android devices:
- App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/bc-wildfire-service/id1477675008?ls=1
- Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.bc.gov.WildfireInformation
BC Wildfire Service: www.bcwildfire.ca
Wildfire prevention: www.gov.bc.ca/wildfireprevention
Links to highway and road closures, park closures, travel advisories and evacuation alerts: https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/
Fire prevention is a year-round responsibility. British Columbians can play a crucial role in mitigating wildfire risks around their homes and in their communities by using FireSmart principles, which can reduce risks to life and property in even the most extreme wildfire conditions. The FireSmart Begins at Home manual and information about the FireSmart program are available online at: www.firesmartbc.ca