The weather’s getting better out there, and the call of the wild is strong as so many long to escape coronavirus-related isolation.
However, while planning physical-distancing outdoor merriment, residents should be aware of stricter burn bans in place.
Local and provincial authorities have cracked down with additional burning prohibitions to not only reduce the likelihood of wildfires but to further reduce the spread of COVID-19.
It’s important to note campfires are still allowed as of publication, but of course, they should be managed responsibly. Campfires, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, are classified as any fire smaller than 0.5 metres high and 0.5 metres wide. Those who light campfires need to have access to eight litres of water or a shovel for the duration of the fire. The fire must be completely extinguished when done and the ashes must be cool to the touch before leaving the area. You must also build a fire guard around your campfire; this can consist of something as simple as a circle of rocks.
The following activities are prohibited and in effect from April 16 at 12 p.m. until further notice:
– Category 2 open fire: one or two concurrently burning piles no larger than two metres high by three metres wide with stubble or grass burning over an area less than 0.2 hectares.
– Category 3 open fire: any fire larger than two metres high by three metres wide, three or more concurrently burning piles no of the same size with stubble or grass burning over an area less than 0.2 hectares.
– Resource Management open fires
– The use of fireworks
– The use of sky lanterns
– The use of burn barrels or burn cages of any size or description (using them for campfires is still permitted).
These regulations apply to public and private land in B.C. alike.
On March 26, provincial officials from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy announced burning restrictions across B.C. The District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs both fall under a high smoke sensitivity zone, where fire restrictions are among the tightest.
“There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function,” said Daniel Bings of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning.”
Ministry of Forest compliance officers, the Conservation Officer Service and the RCMP will be out in force to enforce strong penalties for violating these restrictions.
“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,” states a recent news release from the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD). “If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.”
Currently, most of the province is under low to moderate fire danger ratings. Eleven wildfires burned between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, many of which were small and quickly doused.
Historically speaking, the Agassiz-Harrison area has experience quite a few wildfires throughout recorded history. The most recent wildfire of note was the 2018 Mount Hicks fire that razed more than 400 hectares after a burst tire on a caravan trailer sent sparks toward a dry forest floor along Highway 7. Multiple local fire departments including Agassiz and Seabird Island battled the blaze rough and dangerous terrain from the land and air until it was finally brought under control between two to three weeks after the blaze started.
For any questions about local fire regulations, please contact the Village of Harrison Hot Springs at 604-796-2171 or the District of Kent at 604-796-2235.
To report a wildfire or other burning violation, please call 1-800-663-5555. For up-to-date information about wildfire activity and burning restrictions, visit http://www.bcwildfire.ca.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.