Tinder dry conditions have forced Casino Gun Range executives to make the difficult decision to close the range. The closure will be in effect on a week-to-week basis, with the decision to be reviewed again on Friday, Aug. 11. Bill Wenman photo

Casino Gun Range closed due to wildfire danger

As a precautionary measure, Casino Gun Range has been closed.

The Casino Gun Range has been closed until further notice.

Bill Wenman says the decision was not an easy one, but it was the right thing to do.

“There are several reasons (including) the current ban of all off-road in the forests,” said Wenman, director of the gun range.

“I have personally walked through the range area and everything is bone dry … a spark from a ricochet, of anyone of our vehicles, could potentially start a fire.”

Closing the range was voluntary, not at the behest of the province. However, Wenman urges everyone to comply with the executives’ decision and respect the ‘No Entry’ signage and locked gates.

“Forestry and the local fire departments are busy and although they won’t tell us to shut down,” he emphasized. “This is one thing they don’t want to worry about and they would appreciate not having to worry about.”

The closure will be in effect on a week-to-week basis.

Another walk through of the grounds is slated for later this week, with an update expected on Aug. 11.

“There will be a sign at the gate and a different lock will be placed on the gate until next week,” Wenman added.

“I know this (was) a long weekend and you may have had friends that you to take to the range, and I am truly sorry.”

Precautionary status at the Casino site follows ramped up efforts across B.C. to help prevent human-caused wildfires, given August is traditionally the most active part of wildfire season.

On Friday, the province banned all off-road recreational vehicles on Crown land. The prohibition falls within the Southeast Fire Centre, as well as the Kamloops and Cariboo fire centres.

The most recent update from the Southeast region informed of two evacuation alerts after the growth of two wildfires in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District – one in the Galena Bay area and another near Golden, at Heather Lodge and the surrounding area.

The Galena wildfire is about five kilometres east of Galena Bay. Two helicopters and heavy equipment are assisting 14 BC Wildfire Service personnel with the lightning-cause fire, which is easily visible from the bay and Highway 23.

Given the number of fires currently burning in B.C., the elevated fire danger ratings and the extremely dry conditions in many parts of the province, the BC Wildfire Service is strongly urging British Columbians and visitors to stay out of the backcountry in these regions.

Conditions are continually monitored, and prohibitions may be expanded or rescinded as needed.

Anyone found in contravention of the off-road vehicle prohibition may be issued a violation ticket in the amount of $767. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

The 2017 wildfire season is now the second worst in B.C. since records began, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

More than 590,000 hectares have burned across the province since April 1, sending this season over the 483,000 hectares burned in 1961. Only 1958 was even worse – 855,000 hectares burned that year.

As of Monday afternoon, 134 fires were currently burning across the province, totalling 902 fires in B.C. this season.

Firefighting efforts have cost the province well over $200 million to date.

To report an off-road violation, call the RAPP line at: 1.877.952.7277.

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