Abandoned campfires posing a late-season forest fire risk

A surge of abandoned campfires across the Southeast Fire Centre has fire officials concerned, as the risk of wildfire remains high to extreme for much of the region, says a spokeswoman for the Castlegar-based centre.

Gwen Eamer said Tuesday that the fires appear to be occurring everywhere in the region except for the Revelstoke area.

Fire wardens patrolling recreational areas have responded to 21 abandoned campfires since Thursday, when the last campfire ban in the region was lifted for the Boundary Fire Zone. Campfires must be treated with caution. If officials continue to find abandoned fires, additional restrictions may be necessary.

Unseasonably warm and dry conditions continue across the Southeast Fire Centre and central British Columbia, leading to aggressive fire behaviour and continued fire starts. All of the region’s sustained-action Unit Crews are currently engaged in wildfire suppression outside of the Fire Centre. Initial response capability is also limited, with only 11 of 28 Initial Attack crews available in the Southeast Fire Centre.

With lightning and hot, dry conditions anticipated in the coming week, it is critical that the public remains vigilant. Although the days are becoming shorter, summer fire conditions persist and the fire season is not yet over.

In the past five years, campfires have caused 93 wildfires in the Southeast Fire Centre alone. To prevent a campfire from escaping, be sure it is contained within a metal or rock ring, have sufficient water and hand tools nearby to fully extinguish it, and never leave it unattended. Campfires that are not smoking and appear to be out may still be smouldering beneath the surface. All ashes must be completely cold to the bare touch before you leave the area.

Campers are reminded that failure to properly extinguish a campfire can result in a fine of $173. In addition, if their campfire escapes and causes a wildfire, they may be held liable for all resulting suppression costs and damages.

Crews from the Southeast Fire Centre have responded to 567 wildfires since April 1, which together have burnt 3,966 hectares. At this time last year, 502 fires had burnt 1,730 hectares.

Almost half of all fires in B.C. are reported by the public. Please report smoke or flames by calling the emergency line at 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on most cellular networks. For further information, please visit the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch website at www.bcwildfire.ca.