An unusually dry summer has brought an early season fire ban. On July 2 at noon, a fire ban was announced by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operation’s B.C. Wildfire Service.
The fire ban states that Category 2 and Category 3 open fires as well as campfires are prohibited through the Coastal Fire Centre’s jurisdiction, a branch of the B.C. Wildfire Service.
The exceptions to the fire ban are Haida Gwaii and an area referred to as the Fog Zone, a two-kilometre-wide strip that stretches from Owen Point north to the top of Vancouver Island, and wraps around to the District of Port Hardy boundary.
The Fog Zone does not include Port Hardy.
Schell Nickerson, Chief of the Port Hardy Fire Department confirmed a fire ban in Port Hardy. Brent Forsberg, a Captain at the Port McNeill Volunteer Fire Department, confirms that they have a fire ban in place while a representative from the Village of Port Alice Village Office stated they are also under a fire ban.
Brent Borg, Deputy Chief of the Port Hardy Volunteer Fire Department, says that the fire ban could last for a very long time as there is no rain forecasted in the near future. He also says a fire ban this early in the summer is rare.
“The whole province is getting concerned about low waters and dry forests,” says Borg.
The Wildfire Act can apply to all B.C. Parks, Crown land and private land within the jurisdiction of the Coastal Fire Centre that do not have local government bylaws and have fire services.
Donna MacPherson, a Fire Information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre, says that some municipalities have their own fire prevention bylaws, but will still defer to or follow the Centre’s rules and bans.
For example, Port Hardy has its own fire bylaws, but they follow the Coastal Fire Centre’s bans, according to Nickerson.
In lieu of bylaws, the Coastal Fire Centre’s bans and enforcement is used. Provincial bans are observed province-wide
“We’re the default if there isn’t anything local,” says MacPherson.
A representative from the Provincial Wildfire Coordination Centre says their fine for failure to comply with a fire restriction is $345, but if the infraction leads to an actual fire, the individual responsible can be fined for damage and resources required to put the fire out – significantly more than $345.
The current ban from the Coastal Fire Centre also includes using fireworks, firecrackers, sky lanterns, burning barrels and cages. Using CSA/ULC rated portable stoves is allowed, but the flame height must fall below 15 centimetres.
Briquettes can only be used in these aforementioned devices, and not in established campfire rings. The Provincial Wildfire Coordination Centre averages 134 fires started each year from campfires, with the annual cost for dealing with those fires totalling more than $2.2 million.