Be prepared for risk of wildfires over the long weekend8 min read
Sustained high temperatures throughout British Columbia this week are increasing the potential for wildfires.
Residents, travellers and campers should be prepared for wildfire and heat, to have an emergency plan and to stay informed as conditions change.
The BC Wildfire Service is closely monitoring these changing conditions and making necessary preparations with strategic aviation and crew placements. Of note is the potential for widespread lightning when the current weather pattern changes.
Wildfire prevention is a shared responsibility. Category 2 and Category 3 open fires are prohibited throughout British Columbia. Campfires are currently permitted within the BC Wildfire Service’s jurisdiction. Escaped campfires can lead to human-caused wildfires, but that does not mean a campfire can’t be enjoyed safely. Patrols will be in place on Crown land.
Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, 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.
Local governments and other jurisdictional authorities (e.g. BC Parks) may have their own burning restrictions or bylaws in place. It is important to check with these local authorities before lighting any fire.
Stay informed as conditions change at bcwildfire.ca or through the BC Wildfire Service app.
Between April 1, 2022, and the morning of July 28, 2022, 380 wildfires have burned more than 13,000 hectares in British Columbia. People have caused 52% of those fires. Human-caused fires are completely preventable and may cause the BC Wildfire Service to divert resources away from responding to naturally occurring fires.
Important FireSmart tips for property owners/renters:
- Remove branches, leaves, pine needles and other combustible material from roof, gutters, balconies, doorways, windowsills, etc. Pay particular attention to corners or other tight spots where debris tends to gather.
- Mow any grass within 10 metres of your home regularly, preferably to a height of 10 centimetres or less.
- If you have a deck with a crawlspace beneath it, clear combustibles from there, too.
- Create a 1.5-metre non-combustible zone around buildings by raking and/or sweeping down to mineral soil, rock or concrete.
- Any movable propane tank or wood pile should be kept at least 10 metres away from your home.
- Check all exterior vents to make sure they are properly screened and in good condition.
- Learn more about FireSmart: https://firesmartbc.ca/
Additional fire precautions:
- Anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle on or within 300 metres of forested land or rangeland must have a spark arrestor installed on the vehicle.
- To help reduce wildfire risks, check the condition of the muffler, regularly clear buildups of grass or other vegetation from hot spots, stay on dirt paths and avoid tall grass and weeds.
- Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking materials responsibly, ensuring they are completely extinguished.
Be ready to evacuate:
- Follow the instructions of local authorities.
- If you are under an evacuation order, it means you must leave the area.
- By not leaving, you risk not only the health and safety of you and your family, but also of first responders who may need to come back to help you.
- Help fire crews keep you and your community safe by following evacuation orders.
- The Province reminds the public to prepare their households for any hazards they may face. This includes making a household plan and thinking about friends and family who may be able to provide shelter and support should an evacuation order be issued. This will help ensure local accommodation is available for those who have no other option.
- E-transfer is now available in many communities for people receiving Emergency Support Services (ESS) after being evacuated and registering with the online Evacuee Registration and Assistance (ERA) tool. People are strongly encouraged to pre-register before an emergency. To be eligible for an e-transfer, people must log in to ERA online with their BC Services card app and register. The BC Services card app is available to download from the Apple and Google app stores.
- Monitor Environment and Climate Change Canada for updates about heat warnings and temperature forecasts in your region.
- 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 may open cooling centres to the public. Check with your municipality, regional district or First Nation for the most-up-to-date information.
Preparing for and responding to hot weather:
- If you have air conditioning at home, make sure it is in good working order.
- If you do not have air conditioning at home:
- Find somewhere you can cool off on hot days. Consider places in your community to spend time indoors, such as libraries, community centres, movie theatres or malls. Also, as temperatures may be hotter inside than outside, consider outdoor spaces with lots of shade and running water.
- Shut windows and close curtains and blinds during the heat of the day to block the sun and prevent hotter outdoor air from coming inside. Open doors and windows when it is cooler outside to move that cooler air indoors.
- Ensure that you have a working fan, but do not rely on fans as your primary means of cooling. Fans can be used to draw cooler late-evening, overnight and early-morning air indoors. Keep track of temperatures in your home using a thermostat or thermometer. Sustained indoor temperatures over 31 C can be dangerous for people who are susceptible to heat.
- 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 of heat-related illness. If possible, help them prepare for heat and plan to check in on them. The most susceptible individuals include adults over 60, people with pre-existing health conditions, people with mental illnesses and people with disabilities.
- Drink plenty of water and other liquids to stay hydrated, even if you are not thirsty.
- Spray your body with water, wear a damp shirt, take a cool shower or bath or sit with part of your body in water to cool down.
- Take it easy, especially during the hottest hours of the day.
- Stay in the shade and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
- Take immediate action to cool down if you are overheating. Signs of overheating include feeling unwell, headache and dizziness. Overheating can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, severe headache, muscle cramps, extreme thirst and dark urine. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should seek a cooler environment, drink plenty of water, rest and use water to cool your body.
- Signs of heat stroke include loss of consciousness, disorientation, confusion, severe nausea or vomiting and very dark urine or no urine. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.
- In the event of a medical emergency, call 911. However, it is important to use 911 responsibly to avoid overwhelming the system.
- Never leave children alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52 C within 20 minutes inside a vehicle when the outside temperature is 34 C. Leaving the car windows slightly open will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.
- Heat also affects pets. Never leave a pet in a parked car. Limit pets’ exercise, and be sure to provide them with plenty of water and shade.
Travelling: Know Before You Go:
- Destination BC’s Know Before You Go web page 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 were planning to travel to is affected by wildfires or under an evacuation alert or order, connect with a local visitor centre to rebook your trip to another area of the province.
- The River Forecast Centre also asks that anyone planning activities on rivers or waterways check any advisories for high streamflow or other concerns.
Do not take unnecessary risks in the backcountry:
- The public is asked to be mindful of the needs of B.C.’s wildfire response by making a trip plan when hiking and being careful in the backcountry.
- Not only is there a high risk of wildfire throughout the province, there have also been incidents this summer requiring BC Wildfire Service support for the co-ordinated rescues of hikers. These calls require the diversion of helicopters from the fire line and may challenge progress on fire-suppression efforts.
- While aviation resources are being used throughout the province by the BC Wildfire Service, there are processes for these resources to be accessed by search and rescue when they are required.
- The Province thanks recreationalists for reporting fires that they have spotted in backcountry areas and elsewhere.
- To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone or submit a report through the BC Wildfire Service app.
- 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.
- Mitigating wildfire risk is a shared responsibility of the provincial government, local governments, First Nations, industry and individual British Columbians.
- The BC Wildfire Service’s official mobile app provides real-time wildfire information and features an interactive map that users can customize to display a variety of wildfire-related data. The app complements the BC Wildfire Service website and is available for Apple (iOS) and Android devices as a free download.
Homeowners can learn how to make their properties more FireSmart by visiting the British Columbia FireSmart website and downloading the FireSmart Begins at Home manual, which includes a risk assessment checklist: https://firesmartbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/FireSmart_Booklet_web-Updated.pdf
BC Wildfire Service Operational Update: https://youtu.be/G4_8upJXJ6I
Links to highway and road closures, park closures, travel advisories and evacuation alerts: https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/
BC Wildfire Service: www.bcwildfire.ca
BC Wildfire Service mobile app:
Apple (iOS), download directly from the App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/bc-wildfire-service/id1477675008?ls=1
Android, download directly from the Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.bc.gov.WildfireInformation&hl=en
Open burning prohibitions: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/fire-bans-and-restrictions
Register for Emergency Support Services (ESS) with the online Evacuee Registration and Assistance (ERA) tool: https://ess.gov.bc.ca/
FireSmart program: www.firesmartbc.ca
Highway and road closures: www.drivebc.ca
For travel advisories, visit: https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/travel/
Know Before you Go – ExploreBC: Accommodation, transportation, and experience-provider listings can also be found online: www.hellobc.com/book-your-bc-experience/
For key travel information, visit: www.hellobc.com/know-before-you-go
For guidance on how to stay safe during wildfire smoke events, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/24855
PreparedBC is British Columbia’s one-stop shop for disaster readiness information. For tips on seasonal readiness, how to prepare an emergency plan and what to include in an emergency kit, visit: http://preparedbc.ca