On April 16, 2020 the City of Fernie implemented a total fire ban, including campfires, within city limits. The decision was made by the Fernie Fire Rescue team, and enacted to support efforts related to the public health emergency.
The ban, which is in effect within the entire city boundary until further notice, prohibits all campfires and fire pits. During this time, the yearly fire pit permit renewal process is also on hold.
“As we continue to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, I made the decision to implement a municipal fire ban that includes backyard fires,” said fire chief Ted Ruiter in a statement. “While I recognize that this was not a popular decision, it is my job as fire chief to ensure that we are managing our resources effectively and proactively preparing to be able to manage risks and continue providing essential services over the duration of this crisis.”
Ruiter noted that the city has a small team of fire professionals on staff and on top of their regular duties, their resources are taxed by additional durties like running the local Emergency Operations Centre, supporting the Regional Emergency Operations Centre and proactively preparing for other seasonal fire risks.
“While it is early in the season, we have already responded to a number of calls regarding campfires, and we are already in a level two danger class, where fires may start and spread easily,” Ruiter said. “We know human caused fires are one of the biggest risks and by eliminating all wood burning fires we can eliminate unnecessary calls and risk. The bottom line is we cannot afford to have a preventable fire start in our community.”
The City of Fernie’s fire ban follows a provincial prohibition forbidding the open burning of category two and category three fires. The provincial ban was set in place to reduce the risk of human triggered wildfires. Also initiated on April 16, 2020, the provincial ban continues burning restrictions for all high smoke sensitivity zones until June 15, 2020. The constraints apply to all public and private land within the province unless otherwise specified, and forbids the use of sky lanterns, burn cages, and fireworks.
In solidarity with the provincial ban, the municipal fire ban was created to preserve firefighting resources, protect public health and safety, and limit false alarms. Among other reasons for enacting it was the effort to diminish the negative impact smoke can have on air quality during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information on wildfire activity in British Columbia, air quality notices, or other burning restrictions, visit Bcwildfire.ca. To report illegal fires within City limits, call 250-423-4226, or call 1-800-663-5555 to report wildfires, unattended fires, or violations beyond the city boundary.