Southeast Fire Centre bans campfires

Fire danger rating high to extreme throughout the region.

The BC Wildfire Service sent an initial attack crew to battle a small forest fire near Kimberley today.

There are two other fires burning in the East Kootenay, both are under control, but hot and dry weather conditions are putting officials on edge.

“We are anticipating the fire season to get going in our zone,” said Carlee Kachman, fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service. “It is already happening in other zones throughout the province.”

With over 180 fires burning across the province, the BC Wildfire Service has issued a campfire ban within the Southeast Fire Centre to help prevent human-caused wildfires.

The ban was issued July 7 and covers the area extending from the U.S. border in the south to Mica Dam in the north and from the Okanagan Highlands and Monashee Mountains in the west to the B.C.-Alberta border in the east. It includes the Selkirk Natural Resource District and the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District.

The campfire ban will remain in place until the public is otherwise notified.

The region is experiencing dry conditions and fire danger ratings are high. With forest fuels drying out and lightning storms in the weather forecast, it is crucial to decrease the risk of human-caused wildfires so firefighters can concentrate on naturally occurring wildfires in the region.

Prohibitions on larger Category 2 and Category 3 open fires are already in effect throughout the Southeast Fire Centre.

To learn about the differences between campfires, Category 2 open fires and Category 3 open fires, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/wildfirebans or review the open fire regulations poster at: www.gov.bc.ca/openfireregs

Specifically, prohibited activities once the campfire ban takes effect will include:

• stubble or grass fires of any size over any area.

• the use of fireworks, sky lanterns, tiki torches, chimneys, burning barrels or burning cages of any size or description.

• the use of binary exploding targets (e.g. for target practice).

• the use of air curtain burners (forced air burning systems).

These prohibitions do not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes, or to a portable campfire apparatus with a CSA or ULC rating that uses briquettes, liquid or gaseous fuel – so long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres. The use of a campfire apparatus that does not meet these specifications is prohibited.

These prohibitions cover all BC Parks, Crown lands and private lands, but do not apply within the boundaries of a local government that has forest fire prevention bylaws and is serviced by a fire department. Always check with local authorities to see if any other burning restrictions are in place before lighting any fire.

The Southeast Fire Centre covers the area extending from the U.S. border in the south to Mica Dam in the north and from the Okanagan Highlands and Monashee Mountains in the west to the B.C.-Alberta border in the east. It includes the Selkirk Natural Resource District and the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District.

Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a 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 or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.

Yesterday, Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Minister responsible for Emergency Management BC, announced a provincial state of emergency in response to province’s wildfire situation.

Yesterday, there were 56 new wildfires started throughout the province. Evacuation alerts and orders were issued for Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Princeton. These were in addition to the evacuation orders and alerts issued previously for 105 Mile House and 108 Mile House. The extended weather forecast is calling for continued hot, dry weather, with risks of thunderstorms in many parts of the province.

“This is an urgent situation and public safety is the top priority,” said Stone in a statement. “The province will continue to keep the public informed in this rapidly evolving situation.”

The state of emergency gives agencies such as Emergency Management BC, the Fire Commissioner, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the RCMP authority under the Emergency Program Act to take every action necessary to fight these wildfires and protect residents and their communities.

The last provincial declaration of state of emergency was issued because of wildfires in August 2003.