British Columbia

Rangers remind smokers of risks as 28 fires reported in Stanley Park since May

Officials are reminding smokers to be extremely careful with their cigarette butts, which are being blamed for most of the 28 fires reported in Vancouver's Stanley Park since May.

Vancouver park rangers say 28 fires have been reported in Stanley Park since May

Park rangers say there have been 28 reported fires in Stanley Park since May. Harbour Air flies over the park frequently, and often reports smoke. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Officials are reminding smokers to be extremely careful with their cigarette butts, which are being blamed for most of the 28 fires reported in Vancouver's Stanley Park since May.

"The causes of fires — none of them have been natural. They've all involved park users, and one of the biggest concerns we have is smoking within the park," said Stacey Carter, lead ranger with the Vancouver Park Board. "In the summer season, our biggest concern is fire."

Rangers have handed out more than 250 warnings to people smoking in Stanley Park this year, along with 15 tickets. According to Uultsje Dejong, superintendent of park rangers, Vancouver police have also issued five tickets under the provincial Wildfire Act to people for discarding butts on boulevards or in wooded areas in the park — each worth $576.

Dejong and Carter say the rangers are working to proactively patrol, in the hopes of spotting smoke. Harbour Air also frequently flies overhead, and has been helpful reporting any smoke from the air.

While the season hasn't been especially hot and dry, the number of fires that have sparked in the woods is consistent with previous years, and the rangers are concerned about higher temperatures expected in the weeks ahead.

The park board has four new Fire Bozz units — essentially lawn sprinklers on steroids — which are ready to be deployed if the brush becomes too dry.

The units look like a robotic dog with four metal legs, and firefighters can connect them to hydrants to target a large area with water, before a fire starts.

Uultsje Dejong, superintendent of park rangers, sets up a Fire Bozz unit, a massive sprinkler system that can soak a dry area to prevent fires from catching. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Stanley Park, with its deep, wooded terrain can be challenging to access in places, according to fire captain Jonathan Gormick, but Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services has three specialized wildlands trucks outfitted with unique equipment, such as lighter, thinner hoses for brush fires. One is located near Stanley Park, and it can fit down narrower trails than other fire trucks.

Gormick said the issue of fires cause by cigarette butts is not limited to Stanley Park — it's a major problem across the city.

"The vast majority of outdoor fires in the city are caused by discarded smoking material, and it's a problem we deal with every year," said Gormick.

The hollow tree in Vancouver's Stanley Park caught fire in 2014. (Steve Lus/CBC)
Park visitors check out the iconic hollow tree in Stanley Park. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"It's maybe a little disappointing that it's still such a problem," he said.

Gormick said firefighters have joined City of Vancouver officials in recent education campaigns around discarding butts, and smokers are asked to use pocket ashtrays — though a bylaw prohibits smoking anywhere in Vancouver parks.


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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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