All category one campfires banned in BC with exception of Haida Gwaii
Campfires were banned in all of British Columbia on Monday in an attempt to prevent human-caused wildfires amid persistently hot, dry and volatile conditions.
Officials made the announcement at a news conference in which Emergency Preparedness Minister Bowinn Ma provided an update on the situation in the province. Over the weekend there were 23,000 lightning strikes and 115 new blazes were sparked, prompting evacuation orders and alerts in the northwest, northeast and Cariboo regions.
"We are anticipating continued extreme fire behavior and all of us need to do our part to prevent the situation from becoming any worse no matter where we are in the province," Ma said.
A campfire is defined as anything smaller than 0.5 metres wide and 0.5 metres tall. Also banned is the use of fireworks, "tiki" or similar torches, chimineas, or sky lanterns. Penalties for violating the ban can include fines, jail time, and liability for firefighting costs. Haida Gwaii is exempt from the ban.
The complete ban is necessary, officials say, due to tinder-dry conditions caused by an ongoing drought across much of the province combined with a forecast that calls for more heat and lightning
"We do not have the capacity right now to respond to fires that we can prevent," Cliff Chapman with the BC Wildfire Service added, explaining why the prohibition is being introduced.
"At this point in time, we're really trying to use the measures within our control to prevent human-caused fires. And that starts, really, with this total prohibition on all categories of fires."
Chapman noted that provincial firefighting crews are working long hours and battling fatigue. Resources have been called in to support their efforts from countries like Korea, France and the Dominican Republic – an unprecedented move made necessary by the dire situation nationwide.
"We are asking for help from the globe, essentially, to come and support our response efforts right now. If we have just one campfire that gets away and starts a very impactful fire – that's going to draw resources away from wherever they currently are," he said.
"I just want to stress, we cannot afford to have human-caused fires."
Ma also stressed that drought conditions are compounding fire risk and urged people in the province to conserve water, alluding to the possibility that water restrictions beyond those that have already been brought in by local governments could soon be introduced.
"This is an extremely challenging time for people and communities. It is immensely stressful living day-to-day with smoke, or being near a fire, or being on an evacuation alert. Knowing there may be increasingly tight water restrictions to ensure there's enough water for essential purposes is also extremely difficult," she said.
She also said the province is not yet in a position where a state of emergency is necessary, emphasizing individual actions people should take such as complying with evacuation orders, preparing a grab-and-go bag, reporting wildfires, limiting water use, and familiarizing themselves with emergency procedures and resources.
A state of emergency has been declared for the unincorporated Stikine region. Because that region has no local government, the province needs to make the declaration in order to allow for evacuation orders and alerts.
CTV News Vancouver