Fire ban flares up in Kootenay region

Effective July 8, all open fires are prohibited within the area covered by the Southeast Fire Centre.

In spite of recent rainfall that threatened much of southern B.C. with flooding, summer is here and that means it’s time for fire bans.

Effective July 8, all open fires are prohibited within the area covered by the Southeast Fire Centre, an area that stretches from the B.C./Alberta border in the east to the Boundary area in the west and from the Canada/U.S. Border in the south and to the North Columbia/Golden region in the north.

The fire ban covers all B.C. Parks, Crown, and private lands, but doesn’t cover municipalities that have fire prevention bylaws and are serviced by fire departments.

Although the prohibition doesn’t include small camp fires, the Fire Information Officer for the Southeast Fire Centre, Jordan Turner, recommends public vigilance and suggests people heading into provincial and private campgrounds should contact the campground operators to check on rules for individual sites.

“We want people to take the proper steps when having camp fires,” said Turner.

“Have water on hand to put out fires when they’re done and have necessary hand tools on hand to control the fires.”

Bylaws vary from one municipality to the other and residents are advised to adhere to local regulations regarding back yard burning.

Tracey Butler, deputy chief administrative officer for the City of Rossland, said although the city isn’t concerned about small recreational fires, there are limits.

“People can have fires in a fire pit or fireplace but they have to be no larger than 90 centimetres,” she said. “We don’t allow any burning of yard waste or garbage, in the open or in barrels, without a permit and permitted fires have to be based on the current smoke ventilation index for the area.”

The City of Trail stands by its Fire Safety and Prevention bylaw, which states, “No person shall engage in open burning.”

Melissa Zahn, administrative assistant for the Village of Fruitvale, says that the village follows the Southeast Fire Centre’s recommendations for anything not covered by its bylaws.

The prohibition, which runs until Sept. 20, specifically targets the burning of waste, slash piles, grass fires, and the use of fireworks in uncontrolled areas.

“There are no fires at this point in our area,” said the Southeast Fire Centre’s Turner. “The hazard level for the Trail area is still low. The forest fuels were soaked with all the recent rainfall and it will take some time to dry out enough to present a real danger.”

Turner says that the Fire Centre’s crews have responded to 27 wildfires in the region, 22 of which have been caused by humans.

Some of the main human caused hazards are dropped cigarettes, unattended campfires, and even broken glass acting as a magnifier of the sun’s rays to start fires.

“All human-caused fires are preventable,” said Turner. “We want to ensure public safety and make sure we’re not having to spend our manpower dealing with fires that could have been avoided.”

The public is reminded that they can report wildfires or unattended camp fires by calling toll free 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on a cellphone.