By Andrea Arnold

Although the ban on campfires, classified as Category 1 fires, was lifted on August 11th for the Prince George Fire Centre, the seriousness of the dry weather and risk of fires is still very real. The regulations state that the allowed size for a fire is no larger than half a metre high by half a metre wide, a minimum of eight litres of water or a hand tool be kept on hand, the area around the fire kept clear of combustibles and that your fire must be fully extinguished – cool to the touch – before leaving the area. Category 2 and Category 3 open burning remains prohibited, which includes fireworks, sky lanterns, burn barrels or burn cages.

Due to extreme dryness and current wildfires, there is still a complete fire ban in effect for the western and northern portion of the area covered by the Prince George Fire Centre (not including the Robson Valley). shows a map of these areas.

I have been on several camping trips this summer and I understand the draw of huddling near an open fire in the evenings, but until recently, we have not had an open fire warming our nights. My house was one evacuated during the fire in McBride at the start of May, so maybe I have been a little more on edge this year, and I have been pleased to see that most people I have seen during my several camping trips have honoured the ban. 

But there are  always people who think that the rules do not apply to them. These people can be a hazard to public safety at times like this.

BC Wildfire Services website reports that there have been 2,119 fires, with 408 currently active, seven which have started within the last 24 hours (Monday Sept 11th). Of the total, 1,213 were caused by lightning, 471 were caused by people or people-built infrastructure and the other 135 have an unknown cause, the service says. With more weeks of fire season left to navigate, more than 22,700 square kilometres of land across the province has been consumed by flames so far.

For example, following a long weekend stay at Kinbasket, I saw that a fire had been reported along the shoreline. BC Wildfire listed the cause as human. Fortunately that fire was brought under control quickly. I am unsure if the party responsible was held accountable or not.

Just this week a post on the Valemount discussion board drew attention to individuals who must have had special no spark fireworks to believe their fireworks were not going to cause a fire. Not only did they set them off during the current ban that prohibits anything more than a small campfire, but they left garbage evidence behind (a whole different issue).

Now, as we get into cooler weather, people maybe forget that we still have regulations around burning. Yard clean up and leaf burning will have to wait a while yet. For residents in Valemount, the Regional Transfer Station site has a centralized composting operation for recycling yard and garden trimmings. However, they do not accept weeds, land clearing debris and industrial sources of wood waste as they are not compostable.

The BC Wildfire Act and Regulation document, provides detailed information about what is covered in each of the different fire categories as well as a breakdown of financial cost to those caught in violation of the current restrictions. These include a violation ticket for $1,150, the requirement  to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, a fine of  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. Violators could also be held responsible for damages to Crown resources, which could be significant. 

We have a beautiful but vulnerable valley. Its vulnerability is evident daily to the people of McBride who see the scar left from the May fire slashed across the landscape. Let’s work together to prevent any more such scars.