Life Health

Being vigilant key to keeping wildfires from occurring

By Raven Nyman

Trees burned in a forest fire in the foreground of Height of the Rockies Provincial Park near Canal Flats, B.C. on Aug. 30, 2011. (Mike Drew/Postmedia Network/Files)

Trees burned in a forest fire in the foreground of Height of the Rockies Provincial Park near Canal Flats, B.C. on Aug. 30, 2011. (Mike Drew/Postmedia Network/Files)

As summer weather begins to heat up, the risks for wildfires around the province continue to grow in tandem. It may be easy to distance ourselves from the various wildfires burning across B.C., but complacency is not an option this year.

No matter where you are this summer, you should be aware of fire bans and restrictions for your area. Not only can you incur large fines for failure to adhere to provincial fire guidelines, but most importantly, you can put yourself and others at risk.

Weather plays a major role in the occurrence, progression, and duration of wildfires, which means that the blazing summer ahead poses a significant threat to many dry areas across the country. On a hot, windy summer day, a fire that began at two hectares can quickly grow out of control in a few short hours. B.C. Wildlife Service reports that 319 wildfires have already burned across British Columbia since April of this year alone, while 2016 saw an unusually early and active start to the season with a total of 1,050 wildfires. The cost of fire suppression efforts in the province for 2016 totalled $122 million. Over half of those fires were caused by human activity.

Firing up the barbecue is a summer pastime that never goes out of style, but we should all be sure to hold ourselves accountable for our activities this summer by reviewing and following local fire restriction guidelines. In the city of Vancouver, open burning is prohibited without a permit, and fire pits are not allowed on private or public property. Cooking appliances such as barbecues are allowed on private property as well as in some parks and public areas; however, these guidelines differ between areas, so be sure to stay updated and take extra precautions when cooking at a city park, in your yard, or on your summer camping trips.

A general practice to help prevent fires during a summer grill should include being sure to place the grill away from deck railings, overhangs, and branches of any kind. Additionally, it might seem like common sense to never leave your grill unattended in public and in the heat of summer, yet you’d be surprised by how often this happens. If you will be operating a grill or propane-cooking device this summer, be sure to educate yourself on how to safely operate it before you light up. Always check for leaks, and remember to turn off your barbecue when you’ve finished using it.

Smoking, of course, is prohibited across most public parks, beaches, and recreational sites. Still, the following reminder never ceases to be necessary: even in urban areas and clearly designated locations, you must be sure to discard of cigarettes safely and effectively. Many summer fires are started due to careless use of cigarettes — for example, smokers tossing their cigarette butts on the ground without a second glance. Factor in the hot, dry conditions of summer, and you’ve got a wildfire on your hands. Careless or prohibited usage of fireworks can also provide a significant source of danger this wildfire season, so keep updated on those regulations, too. The responsibility to avoid such a dangerous event is entirely an individual effort, which makes wildfire awareness and personal diligence key as summer weather continues to heat up.

Here are a few additional tips to keep your home—and our province—safe from wildfires this summer:

  • If you smoke, use an ashtray.
  • Avoid backyard fires during the hot summer months, especially if campfire bans are in effect.
  • Only cook or barbecue in designated areas.
  • Keep your lawn and yard free of combustible items such as junk, biological debris, and building materials (this includes actively trimming or cutting long grass and stray branches)

There are many guidelines that one can follow to avoid contributing to summer wildfire dangers, but the most responsible thing you can do today when it comes to wildfires in our province is to review the relevant fire bans and restrictions for your area. Take precautions and stay woke this summer, my friends. Remember: prevention is key!

To report a wildfire or irresponsible behaviour in your area, call 1-800-663-5555 or dial *5555 from your cell phone.