Prepare for the risk of wildfires over the long weekend

Sustained high temperatures across British Columbia this week increase the risk of wildfires.

Residents, travelers and campers should be prepared for wildfires and heat, have an emergency plan and stay informed as conditions change.

The BC Wildfire Service is closely monitoring these changing conditions and making the necessary preparations with strategic air and crew placements. Note the potential for widespread lightning as current weather conditions change.

Forest fire prevention is a shared responsibility. Open fires of category 2 and category 3 are prohibited everywhere in British Columbia. Campfires are currently permitted within the jurisdiction of the BC Wildfire Service. Wildfires can lead to human-caused wildfires, but that doesn’t mean a campfire can’t be enjoyed safely. Patrols will be in place on Crown land.

Anyone who violates an open burning ban may be issued a $1,150 ticket, be ordered to pay an administrative fine of up to $10,000 or, if found guilty by a court, be fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in prison. If the contravention causes or contributes to a forest fire, the responsible person may be ordered to pay all firefighting and related costs.

Local governments and other jurisdictional authorities (eg BC Parks) may have their own burning restrictions or regulations in place. It is important to check with these local authorities before starting a fire.

Stay informed as conditions change at bcwildfire.ca or through the BC Wildfire Service app.

Be prepared to evacuate:

  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If you are under evacuation order, it means you must leave the area.
  • By not leaving, you not only risk the health and safety of you and your family, but also that of first responders who may need to return to assist you.
  • Help firefighters keep you and your community safe by following evacuation orders.
  • The province is reminding the public to prepare their homes for any danger they may face. This includes developing a housekeeping plan and thinking about friends and family who may be able to provide shelter and support if an evacuation order is issued. This will help ensure the availability of local accommodation for those who have no other choice.
  • E-transfer is now available in many communities for people receiving Emergency Assistance Services (ESS) after being evacuated and registering with the online Evacuee Registration and Assistance Tool ( ERA). People are strongly encouraged to pre-register before an emergency. To be eligible for an e-transfer, individuals must log into ERA online with their BC Services card application and register. The BC Services Card app can be downloaded from the Apple and Google app stores.

Heat Warnings:

  • Monitor Environment and Climate Change Canada for updates on heat warnings and temperature forecasts in your area.
  • During heat events, the province works with health authorities, First Nations and local authorities to protect people and communities.
  • First Nations and local authorities in affected areas can open cooling centers to the public. Check with your municipality, regional district or First Nation for the most up-to-date information.

Preparing for and reacting to high heat:

  • If you have air conditioning at home, make sure it is in good working order.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning in your home:
    • Find a place where you can cool off on hot days. Think about places in your community where you can spend time indoors, such as libraries, community centers, movie theaters or shopping malls. Also, since temperatures can be warmer indoors than outdoors, consider outdoor spaces with plenty of shade and running water.
    • Close windows and draw curtains and blinds during the heat of the day to block the sun and keep warmer outside air from coming inside. Open doors and windows when it’s cooler outside to move that cooler air indoors.
    • Make sure you have a working fan, but don’t rely on fans as your primary means of cooling. Fans can be used to draw in cooler late evening, overnight, and early morning air indoors. Keep track of temperatures in your home using a thermostat or thermometer. Sustained indoor temperatures above 31°C can be hazardous to heat-sensitive individuals.
    • If your home gets very hot, consider staying with a friend or relative who has air conditioning if possible.
  • Identify people who may be at high risk for heat-related illnesses. If possible, help them prepare for the heat and plan to watch them. Those most susceptible are adults over 60, people with pre-existing health conditions, people with mental illnesses, and people with disabilities.

Traveling: to know before leaving:

  • Destination BC’s Know Before You Go webpage is regularly updated and serves as a one-stop-shop for visitors looking to access key information resources, including DriveBC, the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC.
  • It is important to recognize that British Columbia is a large and diverse province. Many areas are not directly affected and are open for business.
  • If the area you plan to travel to is affected by wildfires or is subject to an evacuation alert or order, contact a local welcome center to rebook your trip in a another region of the province.
  • The River Forecast Center also asks anyone planning activities on rivers or waterways to check for high flow advisories or other issues.

Don’t take unnecessary risks in the backcountry:

  • The public is urged to be aware of the needs of wildfire fighting in British Columbia by making a travel plan when hiking and exercising caution in the backcountry.
  • Not only is there a high risk of wildfire across the province, but there have also been incidents this summer requiring the support of the BC Wildfire Service for coordinated rescue of hikers. These calls require the diversion of helicopters from the line of fire and may jeopardize the progress of firefighting efforts.
  • Although aviation resources are utilized throughout the province by the BC Wildfire Service, there are processes in place to ensure these resources are accessible by search and rescue when needed.
  • The province thanks recreation enthusiasts for reporting the fires they spotted in the backcountry and elsewhere.
  • To report a wildfire, unattended campfire, or open burning violation, call 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cell phone or submit a report through the BC Wildfire Service app.
  • Anyone who violates an open burning ban may be issued a $1,150 ticket, may be required to pay an administrative fine of up to $10,000 or, if found guilty by a court, may be fined up to $100,000 and/or one year in prison. If the contravention causes or contributes to a forest fire, the responsible person may be ordered to pay all firefighting and related costs.

Full press release available here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022FOR0049-001192

Martin E. Berry