British Columbia

Cigarettes and campfires: officials call for fire vigilance as dry conditions continue

People continue to take risks with illegal campfires and carelessly discarded cigarette butts, despite tinder dry conditions across Metro Vancouver, say local fire officials.

Some still defying burn ban in Metro Vancouver parks, says Richmond Fire-Rescue

"All it's gonna take is one spark to light up all this and before you know it, this beautiful preserved area that we have, we cherish, would have gone up in smoke," said Richmond resident Gurdial Badh. (Cory Correia CBC News)

People continue to take risks with illegal campfires and carelessly discarded cigarette butts, despite tinder dry conditions across the Lower Mainland, say local fire officials.

Dry, hot weather throughout the summer has put Metro Vancouver parks at high risk for fires even as wildfires rage across the province.

Campfire bans have been in place since July in the Coastal Fire Centre which includes the Lower Mainland and extends north along the Sunshine Coast.

 Officials say park users who continue to defy open burn restrictions are putting the region at risk of further wildfires.

"The risks are catastrophic right now, we need people to be vigilant we need people to understand that maybe this isn't the best time to have a campfire and take into consideration the surroundings and other people," said Brian MacLeod of Richmond Fire-Rescue.

Common culprits: cigarettes and campfires

Since April 1, 2018, nearly half of the 264 wildfires in the coastal fire region have been caused by human activity, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Open burning is the most common cause across the coastal region while in Richmond, improperly discarded smoking materials are the number one culprit.

During the height of the 2017 wildfire season, discarded smoking materials were responsible for three fires a day in Richmond, according to Richmond Fire-Rescue.

In July, 2018, a bog fire near Richmond Nature Park burned nearly a dozen hectares and took two weeks to contain. The cause of that fire is under investigation but fire officials say it was not ignited by weather or electrical causes meaning that human activity remains a possibility.

Respect the ban

Richmond resident Gurdial Badh came upon the remains of a campfire burning in a Richmond park during a walk with his wife and their dog in August.

He said he was concerned to see that some residents were not respecting the ban.

"All it's gonna take is one spark to light up all this and before you know it, this beautiful preserved area that we have, we cherish, would have gone up in smoke," he said.

Anyone found violating the burn ban could be issued a $1,150 ticket and, if the fire escapes and causes a wildfire, could face a one year jail sentence and be liable for penalties ranging anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million, according to the province.

convicted in court, a further penalty of up to $100,00 and/or jail time, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

If campfires or cigarettes are found to cause a wildfire then those responsible could be ordered to pay all costs

With files from Cory Correia

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