British Columbia

Campfire, off-road bans limited new long-weekend wildfires in B.C.: officials

'I think generally people are getting the message,' says the BC Wildfire Service's Kevin Skrepnek. 'I think that speaks to the fact that people are taking the threat of human-caused fires seriously.'

Only 6 fires flared on Saturday, fire information officer says bans played role in lower number

Fire officials say people in British Columbia have been taking campfire bans seriously considering how dire the wildfire situation in the province is. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Restrictions meant to help stave off new wildfires in tinder-dry British Columbia appear to be working as people enjoy the long weekend, officials say.

Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service said there were 127 fires burning across B.C. Sunday morning, but only six of those were sparked the day before.

With hot, dry conditions persisting throughout the province, the low number speaks to how people have reacted to prohibitions on off-road vehicles and campfires, he said.

Off-road vehicles are prohibited in the Cariboo, Kamloops and Southeast fire centres. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"I think generally people are getting the message," he said. "I think that speaks to the fact that people are taking the threat of human-caused fires seriously. With conditions that dire, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to be getting dozens of new fires a day."

Last week, the province banned the use of off-road vehicles in much of southern B.C., saying the prohibition was necessary to stop sparks or hot tail pipes from igniting extremely dry fuel in the forests and grasslands.

Campfire bans have also been in effect throughout much of the province for several weeks.

But one man in Williams Lake has been fined $1,000 for what RCMP have called a careless act that could have made the wildfire situation worse in B.C.'s already scorched Interior.

Williams Lake RCMP were called early Saturday morning for reports of fireworks being launched. Police said in a release that officers responded and found several empty fireworks canisters on a man's property.

'Careless acts'

Police said an allegedly intoxicated 34-year-old man told the officers he set off the fireworks in celebration of returning home after several nearby wildfires forced the community to evacuate.

"It is careless acts such as this that have the real potential to trigger even more interface wildfires in the area," Cpl. Jesse O'Donaghey said in a release.

An abandoned campfire in Parksville B.C. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Nearly 892 wildfires in B.C. have charred an estimated 5,910 square kilometres — an area about the size of Prince Edward Island — since April 1.

The province has spent $230 million on fire suppression this year.

Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC said Sunday that almost 7,000 people remain displaced from their homes by the flames, while another 26,000 have been warned that they may need to leave at a moment's notice.

Stand of trees destroyed by fire near Williams Lake. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Some residents of communities put on evacuation orders and alerts have questioned the process, criticizing how much information is being released via social media versus other methods.

Duffy said the internet are tools that can be used to inform people and he encourages people to use as many tools as possible as the fire season.

"Given how dynamic the situation is, I would recommend using as many of those as possible," he said.