By Laura Keil
In the wake of a devastating wildfire year in Australia and with concerns around the impact of wildfires during the COVID-19 epidemic, the Province has issued a sweeping burning ban that takes effect at noon Thurs. April 16th.
The new fire ban extends across the entire Province and includes all Category 2 and 3 fires as well as Resource Management fires (such as slash piles). Campfires (under .5m in diameter) are still allowed unless prohibited within municipalities by local governments.
A previous fire ban, which expired April 16th, covered only High Smoke Sensitivity Zones (well-populated areas including places like Valemount and McBride) but fires were still permitted on Crown Land when the venting index was good. Now, open fires will be prohibited on all public and private land in B.C. until notice is given otherwise.
A BC government press release says open burning prohibitions will reduce demands on firefighting resources and help protect the health and safety of the public, as well as BC Wildfire
Service staff. They will also help reduce the impact of wildfire smoke on air quality and public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The open burning prohibitions coming into effect on April 16 should decrease the number of false alarms (where firefighters respond to a report of smoke, only to find the smoke is coming from a controlled burn and not from a wildfire),” the press release reads.
The open burning prohibitions also support the BC Centre for Disease Control’s recommendation to help reduce excess air pollution in airsheds throughout the province.
Category 2 fires include 1 to 2 concurrently burning piles no larger than 2 metres high by 3 metres wide; they also include stubble or grass burning over an area less than 0.2 hectares. Burning barrels, sky lanterns and fireworks are also banned under this category.
Category 3 fires include any fire larger than 2 metres high by 3 metres wide; 3 or more concurrently burning piles no larger than 2 metres high by 3 metres wide; 1 or more burning windrows; and stubble or grass burning over an area greater than 0.2 hectares.
Even though campfires are permitted, users must have ready access to 8 litres of water or a shovel for the entire time the campfire is lit. The campfire must be completely extinguished and the ashes must be cool to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time (hot coals can reignite the fire).
Several new wildfires have cropped up in the past week in the Kamloops, Cariboo, South East and Coastal Fire Centres. As of presstime Monday, there were no wildfires reported yet in the Prince George Fire Centre.
All illegal fires will be investigated, and charges may be laid. 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. 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