Extreme caution urged over B.C. Day long weekend

WITH much of British Columbia under a heat warning and experiencing high or extreme wildfire risks, the B.C. government is urging travellers and residents to be extremely cautious over the B.C. Day long weekend.

“This year’s fire season is turning into one of the most challenging on record,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, on Friday. “We all must do our part to reduce wildfire risks. I urge everyone to remain vigilant, be cautious and stay informed about wildfire activity in their area.”

Category 2 and Category 3 open fires are prohibited throughout British Columbia. Campfire bans are in effect for most of the province, with the following exceptions:

* Northwest Fire Centre

* Haida Gwaii

* most of the Prince George Fire Centre (A campfire ban remains in place within the Robson Valley Fire Zone.)

People can check the BC Wildfire Service website to see if a campfire ban is in place where they are: http://bcfireinfo.for.gov.bc.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/Bans.asp

People intending to travel anywhere in the province should first check for road closures, evacuation alerts, evacuation orders and other prohibitions, such as BC Parks closures. They should not travel to areas that are subject to evacuation alerts or evacuation orders.

Although the fire danger rating (i.e., the risk of a wildfire starting) is currently “low” or “very low” in some parts of the province, people must still exercise extreme caution to ensure their activities do not spark a new fire. Many of B.C.’s forests and grassland areas remain dry due to unprecedented heat and little rain earlier in the fire season.

The BC Wildfire Service is using all its available resources to fight existing fires. More than 1,250 wildfires have burned more than 456,000 hectares in British Columbia since April 1, 2021, and people have caused about 34% of those fires. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and unnecessarily increase the workload of BC Wildfire Service crews.

Thousands of British Columbians have been evacuated from their homes and businesses, and some have lost their homes and livelihoods. The Province’s main concerns during this extremely challenging wildfire season continue to be the safety of people and communities, and the well-being of BC Wildfire Service personnel, contractors and first responders.

“Emergency personnel, firefighters, first responders and many others are working tirelessly throughout the province to help keep everyone safe,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “It’s important for them to know that we’re all behind them and supporting the extremely important work that they do.”

Important FireSmart tips for property owners:

* Remove branches, leaves, pine needles and other combustible material from roof, gutters, balconies, doorways, windowsills, etc. Pay particular attention to corners or other tight spots where debris tends to gather.

* Mow any grass within 10 metres of your home regularly, preferably to a height of 10 centimetres or less.

* If you have a deck with a crawlspace beneath it, clear combustibles from there, too.

* Create a 1.5-metre non-combustible zone around buildings by raking and/or sweeping down to mineral soil, rock or concrete.

* Any movable propane tank or wood pile should be kept at least 10 metres away from your home.

* Check all exterior vents to make sure they are properly screened and in good condition.

* Learn more about FireSmart: https://firesmartbc.ca/

Additional fire precautions:

* Anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle on or within 300 metres of forested land or rangeland must have a spark arrestor installed on the vehicle. To help reduce wildfire risks, check the condition of the muffler, regularly clear buildups of grass or other vegetation from hot spots, stay on dirt paths and avoid tall grass and weeds.

* Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking materials responsibly, ensuring they are completely extinguished.

Be ready to evacuate:

* Follow the instructions of local authorities.

* If you are under an evacuation order, it means you must leave the area. By not leaving, you risk not only the health and safety of you and your family, but also of first responders who may need to come back to help you.

* Help fire crews keep you and your community safe by following evacuation orders.

Wildfire smoke:

* Wildfires are causing poor air quality in many areas of the province. The best way to protect yourself from the effects of wildfire smoke is to reduce your exposure by sheltering in place.

* Do not evacuate to other areas that are less smoky. In many communities hosting evacuees, accommodations are reaching capacity. Emergency Social Services are needed for those who are on evacuation order and do not have anywhere else to stay.

* Because smoky conditions shift and move, self-evacuating to another community does not guarantee a person’s exposure will be reduced, and unnecessary relocation or travel will only add stress and anxiety that can also have negative health effects.

* Due to weather patterns, in many cases the smoke conditions in major urban centres are worse than the areas residents have left.

Heat warning:

* During heat alerts, the Province works with health authorities and local governments to protect people and communities.

* Health-authority declarations trigger responses in affected regions, including the opening of cooling centres by local authorities, focused action throughout the health-care system with targeted support for vulnerable British Columbians, including seniors, and support for local communities and First Nations through Emergency Management BC.

HealthLink BC tips for keeping cool and healthy:

* Drink plenty of fluids. Drink extra water even before you feel thirsty and if you are active on a hot day. Ask your health-care provider about how much water you should drink on hot days if you are on water pills or limiting your fluid intake.

* Keep cool. Stay indoors in air-conditioned buildings or take a cool bath or shower. At temperatures above 30 C, fans alone may not be able to prevent heat-related illness. Sunscreen will protect against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, but not from the heat.

* Plan activity before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., when the sun’s UV radiation is the weakest.

* Avoid tiring work or exercise in hot, humid environments. If you must work or exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Rest breaks are important and should be taken in the shade.

* Avoid sunburn. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm, and reapply often.

* Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade.

* Never leave children alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52 C within 20 minutes inside a vehicle when the outside temperature is 34 C. Leaving the car windows slightly open will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.

* Regularly check older adults, children and others for signs of heat-related illness, and make sure they are keeping cool and drinking plenty of fluids. Check on those who are unable to leave their homes and people with emotional or mental health challenges whose judgment may be impaired.

* Heat also affects pets. Never leave a pet in a parked car. Limit pets’ exercise, and be sure to provide them with plenty of water and shade.

Travelling: Know Before You Go:

* Destination BC’s Know Before You Go web page is regularly updated and serves as a one-stop shop for visitors looking to access key information resources, including DriveBC, the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC.

* It is important to recognize that British Columbia is a large and diverse province. Many areas are not directly affected and are open for business.

* If the area you were planning to travel to is impacted by wildfires or under an evacuation alert or order, connect with a local visitor centre to rebook your trip to another area of the province.

Do not take unnecessary risks in the backcountry:

* The public is asked to be mindful of the needs of B.C.’s wildfire response by making a trip plan when hiking and being careful in the backcountry.

* Not only is there a high risk of wildfire throughout the province, there have also been incidents this summer requiring BC Wildfire Service support for the co-ordinated rescues of hikers. These calls require the diversion of helicopters from the fire line and may challenge progress on fire suppression efforts.

* While aviation resources are being used throughout the province by the BC Wildfire Service, there are processes for these resources to be accessed by search and rescue when they are required.

* The Province thanks recreationalists for reporting fires that they have spotted in backcountry areas and elsewhere.

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

Anyone found in contravention of an open-burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, may be required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, may be fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.