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Be prepared for risk of wildfires over the long weekend

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 1:05 PDT, Fri July 29, 2022

Sustained high temperatures throughout British Columbia this week are increasing the potential for wildfires.

Residents, travellers, and campers should be prepared for wildfire and heat, have an emergency plan, and stay informed as conditions change.

The BC Wildfire Service is closely monitoring these changing conditions and making necessary preparations with strategic aviation and crew placements. Of note is the potential for widespread lightning when the current weather pattern changes.

Wildfire prevention is a shared responsibility. Category 2 and Category 3 open fires are prohibited throughout British Columbia. Campfires are currently permitted within the BC Wildfire Service's jurisdiction. Escaped campfires can lead to human-caused wildfires, but that does not mean a campfire can't be enjoyed safely. Patrols will be in place on Crown land.

Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000, or, if convicted in court, 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.

Local governments and other jurisdictional authorities (e.g. BC Parks) may have their own burning restrictions or bylaws in place. It is important to check with these local authorities before lighting any fire.

Stay informed as conditions change at bcwildfire.ca or through the BC Wildfire Service app.

Between April 1 and the morning of July 28, 380 wildfires have burned more than 13,000 hectares in British Columbia. People have caused 52 per cent of those fires. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and may cause the BC Wildfire Service to divert resources away from responding to naturally occurring fires.

Important FireSmart tips for property owners/renters:

• 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: 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.

• The province reminds the public to prepare their households for any hazards they may face. This includes making a household plan and thinking about friends and family who may be able to provide shelter and support should an evacuation order be issued. This will help ensure local accommodation is available for those who have no other option.

• E-transfer is now available in many communities for people receiving Emergency Support Services (ESS) after being evacuated and registering with the online Evacuee Registration and Assistance (ERA) tool. People are strongly encouraged to pre-register before an emergency. To be eligible for an e-transfer, people must log in to ERA online with their BC Services card app and register. The BC Services card app is available to download from the Apple and Google app stores.

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 affected 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.

• The River Forecast Centre also asks that anyone planning activities on rivers or waterways check any advisories for high streamflow or other concerns.

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 or submit a report through the BC Wildfire Service app.

• 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.

Homeowners can learn how to make their properties more FireSmart by visiting the British Columbia FireSmart website and downloading the FireSmart Begins at Home manual, which includes a risk assessment checklist: firesmartbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/FireSmart_Booklet_web-Updated.pdf

PreparedBC is British Columbia's one-stop shop for disaster readiness information. For tips on seasonal readiness, how to prepare an emergency plan, and what to include in an emergency kit, visit: preparedbc.ca

For more information, visit the EmergencyInfoBC website: emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/
For travel advisories, visit emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/travel/

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