A wet spring has turned to a tinder-dry summer, triggering Colwood to ban all backyard fires, likely for the remainder of the summer.
Colwood was still allowing backyard burning in chimneas, but issued a ban on Tuesday after the Ministry of Forests rated the south Island forest fire risk as “high.”
Residents are still permitted to have gas fires for barbecues, just no fires of any kind with the potential to spread sparks.
“Chimneas can get good and hot and there is a potential for sparks,” said Colwood bylaw enforcement manager Kevin Atkinson. “The big fear is for a spark to land in a tree or brush.”
The fine for a fire is $200 and Atkinson said there will be no warnings given.
Colwood fire Chief Russ Cameron said a “high” fire rating is normal for this time of year, although it may catch people off guard due to the wet and seemingly extended spring.
“This is the normal routine, but this year it has come quickly,” Cameron said. “It may surprise some people because it’s been so wet and cold, but the wind has dried things out quite a bit.
“The fire department appreciates all the co-operation from residents with the warm weather.”
The main area of concern in Colwood is the forest covering the majority of the Royal Roads University property.
“There is a lot of greenspace in Colwood and Royal Roads is the jewel,” Atkinson said. “If a fire started in there it would take quite a while to get on top of that.”
Colwood banned all backyard rubbish burning and beach fires in 2008, although chimneas and other manufactured outdoor wood burning fireplaces are allowed during cooler weather.
Cameron said callouts for backyard and beach fire emergencies has dropped 85 per cent.
Colwood Fire Rescue crews use to attend 40 to 50 beach fire incidents on the Coburg peninsula each year, with each trip costing the City money and resources.
“There has been overwhelming co-operation from residents,” Cameron said. “It’s been huge for us.”
“People are starting to get it,” agreed Atkinson. “Calls to the beach have dropped dramatically.”
Burning on the West Shore
- Metchosin: Small beach fires or campfires, two feet or less in diameter, are still allowed in Metchosin, although open burning or burning for land clearing was banned in June.
- Highlands: Forest-covered Highlands also banned all burning last month, including incinerators, chimneas and campfires.
- In Langford, backyard burning is banned at least until the end of September, although small campfires and chimneas are still allowed. To light a campfire, residents must call Langford Fire Rescue at 250-478-9555 for a verbal permit and use only clean wood (no yard waste).
- View Royal has a year-round burning ban, including yard waste and chimneas. Gas or briquette barbecues are allowed.
- Colwood: No burning of any kind. Gas or briquette barbecues are allowed.