Fire chief urges caution with open burning

“Everything is dry, it’s just that time of year.” ~ Terry Martin, Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue.

With sweater weather comes sunshine and usually, brown grass.

And with that comes the practise of backyard burning – which can quickly get out of hand even in a controlled environment.

Firefighters have already been called to Marsh Creek Road to extinguish a small field fire, so the local fire chief is urging caution in those areas where open burning is allowed.

“Everything is dry, it’s just that time of year,” says Terry Martin from Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue. “First, we encourage people to phone their municipality to find out if they can burn. And if you are able to burn, do so following the rules and regulations set forth in your local municipality.”

Spring thaw and unseasonably warm temperatures being forecast this week and next, had the Southeast Fire Centre issuing a similar message on Tuesday.

Almost all wildfires are caused by people this time of year, prompting the centre and Martin to ask all residents to exercise caution with any outdoor burning activities due to expected mild conditions.

Dried grass is highly flammable and can easily spark a wildfire so people are advised to create a one metre fireguard and have water and tools close by.

The City of Trail and Village of Fruitvale have a year-round ban on open burning, while Rossland allows the practise with a special burning permit.

From Nov. 1 to April 30 the Village of Warfield permits open burning without a permit and Montrose also allows the practise unless a restrictions or prohibition is issued by the Southeast Fire Centre.

Residential property owners in Area A and Area B are governed by the centre’s open burning policy which allows small fires of twigs, grass leaves and other combustible materials.

Where open burns are allowed, residents are advised to first check the Environment Canada website for venting conditions, which is a term used in air pollution meteorology.

If the rating is poor or fair, then open burning is restricted. According to the centre’s Castlegar-based office on Wednesday, the venting index in the region is low risk, measuring 2 on a scale of zero to 33. Before lighting the match, however, Martin asks people to check in with the fire department on its non-emergency line.

“We’ve had people burning slash piles locally but they’ve done so through the Southeast Fire Centre and have a registration number,” he explained. “We ask they do contact us with that registration number so we know what’s going on and do not send out our firefighters,” he added. “Because people are very concerned when they see smoke and they will call and report.”

If a controlled burn does get away, Martin emphasized the person should immediately call 9-1-1.

“We will come and help them out as best we can.”

The centre also warns that if a fire escapes, the person lighting it may be liable for fire suppression costs and damages. It is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that they are burning in a safe, responsible manner that is in accordance with current restrictions.

To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.