News

Human caused fires continue to cause concern

Twenty-seven of the 47 wildfires since April in the Penticton fire region, which includes Kelowna and Lake Country, have been human-caused. Discarded cigarette butts, fireworks and abandoned campfires are a few of the reasons to blame for those blazes. - Wade Paterson/Capital News
Twenty-seven of the 47 wildfires since April in the Penticton fire region, which includes Kelowna and Lake Country, have been human-caused. Discarded cigarette butts, fireworks and abandoned campfires are a few of the reasons to blame for those blazes.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

Although the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire was not human-caused, there have been no shortage of blazes since then that have started as a result of people's actions.

In fact, Kayla Pepper, fire information officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre, said about half of all fires throughout the province tend to be human-caused on an annual basis.

Since April, the Penticton fire zone—which covers Lake Country to the United States border and EC Manning Provincial Park to Beaverdell—has had 20 lightning-caused fires and 27 fires caused by people.

"It could be anything: All-terrain vehicles causing forest fires, we're still seeing cigarette butts causing forest fires and campfires causing forest fires," said Pepper.

As recently as Wednesday afternoon the Kamloops Fire Centre issued a release urging the public to comply with the current campfire ban, which went into effect Aug. 1.

Over the past two weekends, conservation officers have issued seven violation tickets and 11 warnings to people not abiding by the rules, which include the prohibition of fireworks and burning barrels.

And despite countless warnings of the extreme fire threat, it's not uncommon to see drivers flicking cigarette butts out of their vehicle windows.

Those who violate the current campfire ban could be issued a $345 ticket for all people in attendance of the campfire. A $230 fine could be dished out to any people participating in lighting fireworks.

Reckless fire use could result in a fine of up to $100,000 and/or one year in prison; anyone who is found to actually cause a wildfire could be fined up to $1 million and face up to three years in prison

Pepper said several efforts are being made to bring awareness to the public.

"We team up with local governments to help get that information out," said Pepper, adding they've utilized social media tools to help spread the message.

"We also have fire wardens who will go around and do patrols through each of the fire zones. They'll have different patrol routes and they'll go and talk to campers about being safe in the backcountry."

But despite the awareness campaigns every year, statistics indicate some people may not be getting the message.

"That's unfortunately still the case.

"We do think people have the best of intentions. If you have your dirt bike in the backcountry, maybe you don't know there's a spark going off the back…every situation is different and complex."

As of Thursday afternoon, Kamloops Fire Centre was dealing with 134 active fires.

"Our fire crews are very busy responding to those fires—some of them are in very remote areas.

"When we start diverting resources to respond to (human-caused) incidents, it causes a risk to public safety and to our firefighters. They already have a lot of work to do as it is."

To report a wildfire or prohibited campfire, call *5555 on your cell phone or call, toll-free, 1-800-663-5555.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Twitter: @PatersonWade

 

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