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Zero tolerance for open fires

Zero tolerance for open fires

“Public safety is paramount,” says Gibsons and District Fire Department Chief Rob Michael in response to questions about what the current burning ban on the Sunshine Coast encompasses and how it is enforced. Fires were on everyone’s mind in the past week, as smoke from Interior fires blanketed the south coast of BC, and the fire hazard on the Sunshine Coast was rated as “extreme.”

Michael explained that when the Province issues a burning ban for BC Parks, crown lands and private lands, the ban does not apply within local fire protection districts, which are regulated by individual fire departments. However, the fire departments usually follow the provincial lead and issue their own bans at the same time, which is what happened this summer.

At present there is an open burning and campfire ban in effect throughout all private and public lands on the Sunshine Coast.

CSA or ULC approved portable propane stoves are permitted in provincial campgrounds, so long as they are operated safely. Chimneas and other devices that emit sparks are not allowed.

“Really we’re concerned about fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, and wood with sparks and ashes,” said Michael.

Backyard burning complaints are a bylaw issue (enforced by the municipality or regional district in which they take place), but any type of burning is taken very seriously when there is a ban in place, and Michael says “there is zero tolerance right now.”

If residents are concerned about a backyard burn, he advises that they call their fire department’s non-emergency phone number, and somebody will follow up.

Unsafe disposal of cigarettes (such as tossing a burning cigarette out of a car window) is not under fire department jurisdiction. The RCMP can respond, though they may not pursue the matter if they did not witness the violation.

Details about fire bans can be found on the BC government website under Wildfire Status.

The Ministry of Environment issued a smoke advisory for the Sunshine Coast on August 4, which advises residents to consider avoiding strenuous outdoor activities. Data from the air quality monitoring station at Gibsons Town Hall shows that smoke levels spiked on August 3 and 4 with levels of fine particulates more than double the recommended maximum.

Donna McMahon

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