Morgan Cross/News staff
B.C.’s newly enacted cigarette fine comes at the just the right time, as forest fires blaze across the province and Saanich Peninsula municipalities adopt extreme fire ratings.
Fire Chiefs Brett Mikkelsen of Sidney, Chris Vrabel of Central Saanich, North Saanich and the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve warn all residents to properly put out and discard their cigarettes, avoid starting open fires and practice FireSmart techniques on their own properties. Since July 6, all open fires and campfires have been banned in coastal B.C.
Central Saanich’s Chris Vrabel said July 18, “The danger rating is moving to extreme today based on the data provided by Victoria Airport Authority in the Capital Region.”
Burning is not permitted in the region for any purpose. At this time, he said, “it’s good to be very conscious of the cigarette materials and the use of gasoline powered machinery or other activities that create sparks.”
The no-burning ban encompasses popular summer spots like Island View Beach, where people often hold campfires.
Aside from properly discarding cigarettes and refraining from holding open fires, Vrabel encourages homeowners to follow the national guidelines for FireSmarting their property. One way to follow FireSmart protocol is to prevent the spread of grass and groundcover fires to structure such as houses by buffering property. This includes clearing all vegetation from within 10m of a structure, ensuring that there are no trees or other plants overhanging the roof, and choosing deciduous alternatives, such as aspens and birches, when planting new trees. The full FireSmart guide is available online at firesmartcanada.ca.
An example of what can occur when those buffers are not in place is the grassfire that spread in Lake Country to consume numerous homes July 15.
Vrabel said, “We’ve been fortunate enough to not have any significant grass or forest fires in Central Saanich and we’d like to keep it that way.”
Those interested in volunteering with the Central Saanich Fire Station can visit centralsaanich.ca to apply as firefighters. The station is currently recruiting Central Saanich residents 19 years of age and older who are physically fit team players able to respond to day and night calls. A valid BC Driver’s License is required.
A dense urban centre without much forest, Sidney remains at risk for small grass fires which can catch structures on fire. The number one cause for fires in the area, as for many other areas, is smouldering cigarette butts. Residents are allowed to enjoy propane and natural gas fire pits, but not open fires. Mikkelsen reiterates that open burning is banned year-round in Sidney.
“We will be following up on reports of that aggressively,” he said.