Conservation Officers (COs) are “strongly reminding” the public that there is an open fire ban across the province — one that COs are enforcing here in the Boundary.
Fire patrols have resulted in serious fines in Grand Forks and neighbouring Christina Lake after the ban came into effect on June 30, Grand Forks CO Mark Walkosky told The Gazette. Fellow officer Kyle Bueckert was unambiguously clear when it came to holding offenders accountable.
“If you light a fire — literally any open fire — during the fire ban and we respond to it, you will get a $1,150 fine under the Wildfire Act,” he said. This includes campfires, any and all burn piles — even lighting tiki torches or fireworks.
The B.C. government announced the ban as a record-breaking heatwave hit the province and Southern Alberta. Temperatures verged on 50 C in Lytton shortly before the town was largely destroyed in an inferno the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) suspects was caused by people. Heat in the mid-40s dovetailed the Merry Creek wildfire, also suspected to be human-caused, which threatened the city of Castlegar before it was contained on July 4.
COs Walkosky and Bueckert have since made good on their word, issuing a $1,150 Wildfire Act ticket at a Grand Forks residence on July 5 and a $575 prohibited burn ticket in Christina Lake the day before. The officers had meanwhile joined Grand Forks RCMP’s search for people who reportedly set off fireworks in Christina Lake on the night of July 1.
Bueckert stressed that flouting the fire ban can lead to penalties much steeper than an on-the-spot fine.
“If you light a fire and it gets away from you, you can be held liable under the Wildfire Act for the costs of fighting the wildfire and for any damages associated with that fire,” he warned.
The BCWS has logged 785 wildfires province-wide in 2021, according to the service’s website. Of these, 206 were still burning as of Thursday afternoon, July 8, with 31 added in the past two days.
— With files from Betsy Kline, Katya Slepian and Ashley Wadhwani