Campfires to look a little different on Tofino beaches this summer
New bylaw makes portable fire pits mandatory in a bid to reduce air and beach pollution
Beach fires as we know them — built on the ground with sticks and logs — will no longer be allowed on Tofino's popular stretches of sand this summer.
But this does not put an end to roasting marshmallows and hot dogs while basking in the warm glow of a fire.
The District of Tofino voted unanimously this week to amend its outdoor burning bylaw to make portable appliances such as fire pits mandatory for all beach fires in a bid to reduce air and beach pollution.
Tofino Mayor Dan Law says the change stemmed from the "incredible" number of visitors to the area last year.
"[There were] lot of beach fires, a lot of debris, [and] issues with our bylaw staff," he explained.
Law said council debated whether to ban beach fires altogether but, after the community "spoke up very loud and clear that [they're] a local amenity," decided to make a compromise.
"We don't have a lot of amenities here so this one is precious," said Law.
Appliances now approved by the district include "portable propane fire rings," which run similarly to a barbecue and are available in stores, and "vented wood burning fire rings," which allow for firewood.
"It simply lifts the fire off the sand and contains it somewhat, [allowing] oxygen in from below and from the sides. So the fire burns hotter, cleaner, and [with] less smoke," said Law, adding that people will be less likely to throw their empty cans and bottles in the fire if they have to pick it up and carry it home with them.
Portable fires are now permitted at Mackenzie Beach and Chesterman Beach from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and anyone without an approved appliance will face a $200 fine.
Brent Baker, the district's manager of protective services, said during a council meeting on April 26, that the district, Tourism Tofino, and the local chamber of commerce will work together to make sure that people "are as aware and prepared as possible" for the new measures.
Baker cited plans to put more signs in public-facing areas and on business properties.
While portable appliances can cost hundreds of dollars, Baker said local businesses have expressed interest in renting out units, making them more affordable.
Law said he hopes people will realize the environmental benefits of a portable fire and that it doesn't take long to save up enough money for a device.
He said he's hopeful that, with an increase in local bylaw staff this year, enforcing the burning bylaw won't be as much of an issue as it has in the past.
"We're really trying to get it across to people to try to embrace [portable appliances]. It is a compromise, and it will allow us to have beach fires long into the future," said Law.
With files from Adam van der Zwan and All Points West