File Photo: Rachael Kimola - Castanet
File Photo: Rachael Kimola - Castanet

Zero tolerance for campfires

by - Story: 48701

The provincial government is taking a zero tolerance stance when it comes to campfires in B.C. forests.

During a province-wide conference call, Minister of Forests and Range, Pat Bell, says he was very disturbed and frustrated with some of the things he has seen going on in the forests.

Bell says over the past week or so, 100 campfires and five abandoned campfires have been discovered.

During the August long weekend, the public reported discovering a total of 300 other campfires.

"This is very, very disturbing. We have all had experience with campfires," says Bell.

"We know that small sparks come from these fires and can easily land in our forests. As tinder dry as they are today they can very quickly start a fire that can get away from us."

Bell says because of this, a zero tolerance approach to campfires and people who discard cigarettes in the forests is being instituted immediately.

"I have directed all of our compliance and enforcement staff to take a zero tolerance enforcement approach. There will be no more warning, whether it's discarding a cigarette of lighting a campfire. It will immediately lead to a fine."

The fine for discarding a cigarette butt is $173. There is a $345 fine for campfires.

"There are also other penalties that can be brought to bear, up to and including imprisonment and million dollar fines."

Bell says 200 enforcement officers and 140 monitoring staff along with RCMP, regional police and local bylaw officers will be patrolling the air, ground and water throughout the province.

A total of 54 tickets have already been issued in three forest regions throughout the province over the last 10 days.

"We need everyone out there to know that this is going to start hitting them in the wallet."

As for a total ban of the back country, Bell says that will be the next step.

"We were close to making that decision over the last couple of days, but the fact we had a bit of moisture in the air and cooler temperatures led us to the belief we can continue to allow that activity to take place."

Bell says conditions will be monitored daily and a back country ban could be brought in if conditions worsen again.

Meantime, Bell says the province has spent more than double what was initially budgeted for fighting wildfires.

He says to date, the province has spent in excess of $134 million.

The province had budgeted $62 million.

When Premier Gordon Campbell toured the fires in West Kelowna two weeks ago, he indicated the province had spent $51 million prior to the outbreak of fires in Glenrosa, Rose Valley and Terrace Mountain.

Bell says the province has unlimited spending authority to fight wildfires and says it will "continue to spend as necessary."

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