Full beach fire ban could be issued if dry conditions continue

Burning improper items, unextinguished fires and garbage increase as other areas ban fires

The Capital Regional Distract may soon lose its last legal place to build a beach fire.

The District of Metchosin is considering banning beach fires on Taylor and Weirs Beach, the last two in the CRD where the seaside campfires are still allowed. Metchosin Coun. Moralea Milne said a drastic increase in the number of such fires following bans across every other municipality in Greater Victoria precipitated a committee recommendation to ban the fires outright.

“It’s just a matter of over population,” she said. “If there is only two people doing them, it’s maybe a small impact, but with a beach fire ban across the CRD it has become an impossible situation.”

The two beaches currently don’t require permits for fires less than two feet in diameter. They must be at least 10 feet away from logs and 20 feet from fences or structures, must be extinguished by midnight and can only be set when no provincial campfire ban is in effect. Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop said the increased fires have brought a number of unwelcome consequences.

“The struggle comes when people don’t obey the rules,” she said. “If everyone obeys … beach fires wouldn’t be (as much of) an issue, but that is not the case. Because we’re the only one that allows them right now, there are lots of beach fires.”

Major issues include the burning of pallets and bottles instead of firewood, she said, which leave behind a trail of nails and broken glass in the sand where children and pets may walk barefoot. Then there’s the improper burning of logs from the beach, unextinguished fires leaving hot patches beneath the sand that can burn bare feet, and the increase of garbage, Dunlop added.

Milne said a one-day clean up she took part in on Taylor Beach saw volunteers pick up more than 20 pounds of nails from beach fires. And with volunteer firefighters now patrolling the beaches, she said, having to deal with unextinguished fires puts a greater strain on the fire coverage. “We have a terrific fire department, but they don’t need more work to do.”

While many people enjoy beach fires responsibly, Milne said, she doesn’t see another way to curtail the issues exacerbated by potential environmental impacts.

“The two beaches are homeland for forage fish; little fish like the Pacific sand lance and the surf smelt who lay their eggs on the beach. This habitat is being destroyed by all the fires. For many reasons, not the least of which is danger (to the public), I believe we have to stop.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

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