Fire ratings across the West Shore and South Island jumped from high to extreme this week, as hot weather continues to make conditions tinder dry.
“It’s crispy,” said Marg Drysdale, a Coastal Fire Centre information officer, of the current conditions. “We’ve had no significant rainfall since Aug. 9 and we are looking ahead at very hot and dry conditions.”
It’s this forecast and the expanding areas of extreme conditions that caused a sweeping campfire and category three fire ban to take effect on Wednesday. In addition to open fires, the ban was also expanded to prohibit the use of incinerators, outdoor stoves, chimineas, Tiki torches, fireworks, sky lanterns and exploding shooting targets.
Tiki torches are a relatively new addition to the list of banned fire sources. Drysdale said that’s due to their nature. “They’re top heavy, on a long pole and are an open flame,” she said, noting how easily they can spark a blaze.
The ban does not apply to portable campfire apparatus that use briquettes or liquid or gas fuels, as long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres. This exception also includes certified cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes.
While briquettes can be used in CSA- or ULC-rated cooking devices, Drysdale noted they cannot be used in open fire rings.
This fire ban applies to all provincial parks, Crown lands and private lands within the Coastal Fire Centre, with the exception of Haida Gwaii and a strip of land two kilometres wide that runs from Owen Point near Port Renfrew to the district boundary of Port Hardy. The Coastal Fire Centre encompasses the Island, the Gulf Islands, Haida Gwaii, the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast.
A ban on category two open fires came into effect in early May and the category three ban is slated to last until Oct. 21, but Drysdale noted when conditions change, “they’ll go ahead and lift it right away.”
Due to the ban, the District of Highlands will not be issuing any burning permits until Oct. 15, or further notice.
This year’s category three ban came about a month and a half later than last year’s, which was also accompanied by a provincewide campfire ban. Drysdale also noted it’s not unprecedented to have a year without a category three ban. The last year that happened was in 2011.
This year, Vancouver Island has seen 80 wildfires as of Tuesday, 64 of which were human-caused and 16 were caused by lightning. The entire Coastal Fire Centre region has seen 140 fires this year, which is behind the 10 year average of 193 fires.
Back in April, the fine for ignoring a fire restriction – such as a campfire ban – jumped to more than $1,100. Those that fail to properly extinguish a burning item, including cigarettes, could face a $575 ticket. In addition to those fines, offenders could also be required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000, or if convicted in court, fined anywhere from $100,000 up to $1 million with the possibility of spending up to one year in jail.
If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may also be ordered to pay all of the firefighting and associated costs.