Bonfires may add to the spookiness of Halloween night, but in Saanich there are several rules that must be followed before legally getting the fire going.
Saanich residents are only allowed to have fires on Halloween night and only if they have a Halloween Bonfire Permit, explained Lt. Insp. Sean Lillis of the Saanich Fire Department. The fires must take place on private property and can only burn between 5 and 11 p.m.
A permit can be purchased for $10 and is only valid on Oct. 31.
Along with their permit, folks are given a handout that explains the guidelines and expectations for safe bonfires. A competent person must be present and monitoring the fire until it is fully extinguished and fires between three feet and six feet in diametre must be inspected by someone from the fire department.
The fire must also be at least 25 feet away from any structure or fence and from the property line. It’s important to have rakes, shovels and a garden hose hooked up and ready nearby in case something happens, said Lillis.
There is no set limit to how many permits the fire department will issue each Halloween. The Saanich Fire Department sold 40 Halloween Bonfire Permits in 2018. He noted that the permit system has been effective and helps to reduce problems because it keeps people accountable and limits opportunity for injury.
Lillis emphasized that no one has taken advantage of the system. People have been happy that the fun Halloween traditions are still allowed by first responders, he said.
In preparation, the Saanich Police Department is given a list permit holders and their addresses so officers know who’s allowed to have a fire. The 911 call takers also have access to the list so they can inform neighbours if they call to report a bonfire.
Bonfires lit without a permit will be extinguished and property owners issued a $100 ticket, Lillis warned.
“It’s best to be safe,” he said. “Come in and get a permit.”
Bonfire permits are available at any of the Saanich fire stations before noon on Oct. 31. For more information, call the Saanich Fire Department at 250-475-5500.