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Public urged to take care outdoors as wildfire season continues

With a warm and sunny Labour Day weekend ahead of us, the BC Wildfire Service is stressing vigilance.

The service says recent wildfires, such as the 2,122-hectare Christie Mountain blaze south of Penticton, have vividly demonstrated how quickly fire can spread. 

While the fire danger rating across much of the Coastal Fire Centre remains low to moderate, the service says fire safety is a responsibility that everyone shares — no matter where you live.

“I thank all British Columbians who are doing their part by staying alert for potential fire risks and taking open burning prohibitions seriously,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “I hope that everyone enjoys the Labour Day long weekend, while also recognizing that the wildfire season is not over yet.”

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Anyone planning to spend time outdoors this weekend is encouraged to use caution with any activity that could potentially spark a wildfire. 

BC Wildfire dashboard as of Sept. 3. (Supplied by BC Wildfire)

From April 1st through Sept. 2nd, there have been 586 wildfires reported across B.C., 45 per cent of which were human caused.

Over 11,000 hectares have burned in B.C. since April 1st.

If you’re heading to the outdoors this weekend, you’re urged to take the following precautions:

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  • Campfires are currently allowed in all areas of the province that fall under the BC Wildfire Service’s jurisdiction. However, people should check with local governments and other authorities (e.g., BC Parks) to see if any burning restrictions or bylaws are in effect.
  • Campfires 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 a campfire.
  • Make sure the ashes are cool to the touch before retiring for the night or leaving the area for any length of time.

Additional precautions:

  • 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 build-ups of grass or other vegetation from hot spots, stay on dirt paths, and avoid tall grass and weeds.
  • Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking materials responsibly, ensuring they are completely extinguished.

The government’s conservation officers conduct regular patrols throughout B.C., while natural resource officers from the Compliance and Enforcement Branch work closely with BC Wildfire  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 $1,150 ticket, may be required to pay an administrative penalty of 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 you cause or contribute to a wildfire, you might 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 current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, call 1 888 3-FOREST or visit: 

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Looking back, the 2019 wildfire season was fairly tame with 825 fires burning 21,138 hectares province-wide, with a $182.5 million cost.

Compare that to 2018, the worst wildfire season in B.C. history, when 2,117 fires ripped through over 1.3 million hectares of forest, costing us $615 million.

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