Whatever your activities this Labour Day long weekend, remember there are wildfire crews working hard in the bush.
Please observe campfire bans and exercise caution to prevent human-caused wildfires.
Current Wildfire Activity
The 2018 fire season is far from over. While temperatures have dropped, various levels of rainfall are occurring, and the smoke has cleared throughout most of the province, the risk of wildfires remains high. Currently, 518 wildfires are burning in B.C., with 53 wildfires that are highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety.
Everyone is urged to use extreme caution with any outdoor activity to ensure no human-caused wildfires are added to an already challenging workload. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and unnecessarily divert firefighting resources from naturally occurring wildfires.
From April 1 to Aug. 30, 2018, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 2,015 wildfires throughout the province, with 444 of those fires caused by people. Over 1.25 million hectares have been burned in the province to date, surpassing last year’s record of 1.21 million hectares burned. This means 2018 experienced the highest number of hectares burned in the province’s history.
Campfires are still banned throughout the province, with the exception of the “Fog Zone” on the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Peace Forest District and Fort Nelson Forest District in the Prince George Fire Centre. Information about current open burning prohibitions, including campfire bans, is available on the BC Wildfire Service website.
The Province’s natural resource officers and conservation officers conduct regular patrols throughout British Columbia, and work closely with BC Wildfire Service staff, to investigate any improper use of fire when an open-burning prohibition is in effect.
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.
To report a wildfire or open-burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. For up-to-date information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, call 1 888 3-FOREST or visit them online.
Be Safe in the backcountry
Be extra careful in the backcountry. Not only is there a high risk of wildfire throughout the province, there have also been several incidents this summer requiring BC Wildfire Service support for co-ordinated rescues of hikers. These calls require the diversion of helicopters from the fire line and can challenge progress on fire suppression efforts.
Plan your activities to avoid trouble. Get prepared with practical, easy-to-use tools from AdventureSmart online.
Know Before You Go – DriveBC
Provincial transportation routes will be busy. Drivers can expect possible delays due to the higher volume of long-weekend travellers. Please plan your trip well in advance, pack food and bottled water for yourselves and your pets. Allow for plenty of extra time, and drive safely. For up-to-date route information, please visit: DriveBC.ca – or on Twitter.
Know Before You Go – BC Parks
Most provincial parks remain open for recreational and camping activities. However, due to the serious nature of the current wildfire situation, BC Parks, in co-ordination with the BC Wildfire Service, has closed numerous parks to protect public safety.
Prior to closing parks, multiple factors are taken into consideration, such as weather conditions and forecasts, access routes, the presence of active fires, and fire-danger ratings. Wildfires are dynamic and circumstances can change quickly. BC Parks and the BC Wildfire Service assess wildfire situations on a daily basis.
British Columbians and visitors are urged to follow the instructions of BC Parks staff, BC Wildfire Service officials, the RCMP, conservation officers and other authorized personnel in the area. See an alphabetical list of B.C. parks, and their status, online.
The BC Coroners Service is urging residents and visitors to take extra care when they are near rivers, lakes or the ocean.
The most recent data collected by the BC Coroners Service show accidental drowning deaths tend to spike each summer, with the numbers beginning to increase in May and continuing to rise through August. The report for 2016 drowning fatalities shows a total of 47 accidental drownings, with more than one-third of those deaths occurring in the southern Interior region.
Here are some water safety best practices to consider heading into the long weekend:
- All recreational boaters, including paddlers, should wear a properly fitted personal floatation device (PFD). Children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers should wear a PFD anytime they’re in or near the water.
- Visitors to the province should understand the dangers that may lurk in or near B.C.’s lakes and rivers, including sudden drop-offs into deep water, unexpected underwater obstacles and unstable or slippery rock edges above cliffs and waterfalls. Waters in B.C. are frequently much colder than in other countries or provinces. If you are hosting someone from out of town, be sure to warn them of these potential hazards.
- Avoid mixing alcohol with swimming, boating or any water-based activity. Impairment greatly increases the chances of an accidental drowning.
Heading into the long weekend, we remind everyone to be safe behind the wheel and out on B.C.’s roads and highways. Drivers face higher fines, more penalty points and possible driving prohibitions for repeat offences with legislation that came into effect on June 1.
Distracted driving is now considered a high-risk driving offence, which makes it equivalent to excessive speeding, driving without due care and attention, and driving without reasonable consideration. If your vehicle is not equipped for hands-free use of your handheld device, turn off the ringer before you turn on the ignition.
For more information with tips to avoid distracted driving, visit ICBC online.
B.C. is a very large and diverse province. Many areas are not impacted by the current wildfires and are open for business. We encourage anyone planning to visit any region in B.C. to “know before you go” and confirm plans with tourism operators. If you are currently visiting or planning a visit to B.C., check out HelloBC’s Need to Know website.
Health and Wellness
Air quality in B.C. continues to fluctuate due to wildfire activity. Because smoky conditions shift and move, self-evacuating to another community does not guarantee a person’s exposure will be reduced and unnecessary relocation or travel will only add stress and anxiety that can have negative health effects.
The best way to protect yourself if you are in an area with poor air quality is to reduce your exposure. Here are a few tips to help you breathe easier:
- Stay indoors and keep the air clean (windows/doors closed, no smoking, no burning fireplaces/candles/incense, no vacuuming).
- Use a high-quality portable air cleaner with HEPA filtration to remove smoke particles from the indoor air.
- Visit places with controlled air supply, such as shopping malls, swimming pools, public libraries, etc.
- When in a vehicle, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate.
- Reduce time spent outdoors and avoid vigorous outdoor activities.
- Drink plenty of water, even when you don’t feel thirsty.
People with asthma or other chronic illness should ensure they have an adequate supply of inhalers/medication and should activate their asthma or personal protection plans.
Poor air quality can be harmful to health, especially for those with heart and lung conditions, pregnant women, infants and young children, and older adults. If you are feeling unwell, you can call 811, a free-of-charge provincial health information and advice phone line available in British Columbia. If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911.
For more information on protecting your physical and mental health during wildfire season, visit online.
- For more information on wildfire prevention
- To report a wildfire or open-burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. To report suspicious activities, environmental damage or a natural-resource violation, call 1 877 952-RAPP (7277) or *7277 on a cellphone.
- Detailed information about current open-fire restrictions is available on the BC Wildfire Service website
- For information on evacuation orders and alerts, stay tuned to your local authority’s public information channels and Emergency Info BC
- For up-to-date information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and more, visit BCWildfire.ca
You can follow the latest wildfire news:
- Burning regulations in Sooke (Opening burning allowed from Oct 1 to May 31, but please refer to these regulations for specific details)
- Follow Government Fire Info on Twitter
- Follow Government Fire Info on Facebook
To report a wildfire, please call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. Local non-emergency numbers (in case of emergency, please phone 9-1-1):
- Sooke Fire Department: 250-642-5422
- Otter Point Fire Department: 250-642-6211
- Shirley Fire Department: 250-646-2107
- Port Renfrew Fire Department 250-647-0101
- East Sooke Fire Department: 250-642-4411