When West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund watched footage of fire burning through Fort McMurray, he was filled with emotion.
“Earlier in the week it induced a lot of anxiety,” said Brolund .
“Our people watched it with a feeling of ‘we want to be there and we want to help.’”
They all know all too well, however, they need to be here.
“We see it and think it’s unbelievable, but it shouldn’t be,” said Brolund.
“It has happened here on a smaller scale and it can happen again. We’re way ahead of where we would normally be. It’s been 31 C and it’s only early May.”
Every drop of rain that’s fallen can help, but not for long. A hot day can quickly dry out the forest floor.
“But we’re trained, our equipment is in good shape and we’re ready for what summer may bring,” he said.
And, if fire strikes, his aim is to get to it fast.
“We hope we can get to fires when they’re small and that people can get prepared and do things in their neighbourhood to get ready,” he said.
Driving home the point that fire prevention is key is news that the Kamloops Fire Centre issued a fire ban to slow down the spread of fires.
From April 1 to May 11, B.C. Wildfire Service crews responded to 36 wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre.
Many of these wildfires were the result of poorly planned open burning.
Effective as of noon May 15, category 2 and 3 open fires will be prohibited throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre, which includes the Central Okanagan, to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect the public.
This prohibition will remain in effect until Oct. 15, or until further notice.
Specifically, prohibited activities will include:
• The burning of any waste, slash or other materials (piled or unpiled) larger than one-half metre by one-half metre.
• The burning of more than two open fires of any size at the same time.
• Stubble or grass fires of any size over any area.
• The use of fireworks, sky lanterns or burning barrels of any size or description.
A poster explaining the different categories of open burning is available online at http://bit.ly/1GlhE9l.
A map of the affected open fire restriction areas is also available at http://bit.ly/23FpWix.
This prohibition does not ban campfires that are a half-metre high by a half-metre wide (or smaller) and does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes.
This prohibition covers all B.C. parks, Crown lands and private lands, but it does not apply within the boundaries of a local government that has forest fire protection bylaws in place and is serviced by a fire department.
Before lighting any fire, people should check with local authorities to see if any other burning bylaws or restrictions are in effect.
Always check the venting conditions before conducting an open burn. If venting conditions are rated “poor” or “fair,” open burning is restricted.
The venting index can be found at www.bcairquality.ca/readings/ventilation-index.html.
Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail.
If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.
If you see flames or smoke, call 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or dial *5555 on your cellphone to report it.
For the latest information on wildfire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit the B.C. Wildfire Service website bcwildfire.ca.