Mother Nature delays annual campfire ban across Central Okanagan Regional District

The ban takes effect at noon Friday, Aug, 19 and will remain in effect until further notice.

Say “sayonara” to your campfires.

The long, hot days of summer arrived, prompting the province to issue an Extreme Fire Hazard rating for the region and, in turn, the regional district to snuff out all campfires for Central Okanagan municipalities and electoral area Fire Service Areas.

While those who crave converging around a fire may be disappointed, the good news is that the ban didn’t go into effect until nearly two months later than usual.

Bruce Smith, from the Central Okanagan Regional District, said last year the campfire ban went into effect on July 3, and in  2014 it was a week and a half earlier.

“The cooler weather that everybody has been complaining about has affected the fire danger rating … it wasn’t until this last week, as a result of the extremely dry conditions and period of hot dry weather, it was boosted to extreme,” Smith said.

West Kelowna Fire Chief, Jason Brolund explained that his department pays close attention to the weather and when it switches, it’s clear that campfires have to go—even if it was a pretty lacklustre summer.

“Chronically, the forests are dry,” he said. “We had on-and-off rain through the summer, but it was never enough to really soak the ground, so the fire danger rating climbs quickly when you get 30 C plus weather and lower humidity,” he said.

Brolund’s assessment of the weather jives well with Environment Canada records.

According to meteorologist Lisa Coldwells,  July was not summer-like because there wasn’t a weeklong stretch of heat.

“But when you crunch the numbers it comes out quite average,” she said. “Everybody’s perception was off. If I look at Kelowna in July, it was slightly warmer than normal .7 C than average. That makes it the 17th  warmest July on record. And when I look at precipitation it comes out normal, ranking it as 18th.”

The heat arrived for August and in the week ahead Okanaganites will get more of what they expect of their summer.

“We have a strong upper ridge in place and we will get sunny, 33 C and 34 C weather that will last until the weekend,” she said, noting that there’s a forecast of 35 C for Saturday, although she’s not expecting it to get that hot.

There’s a weather “blip” expected for Monday, bringing cloudy skies and a slight chance of a shower and then summer will continue on in the high 20s.

“It will continue to be relatively summer like into the last weekend of August,” she said.

If that summer weather prompts any need for camping, however, that ban will still be in place and fines will be slapped on anyone who breaks it.

Violators could receive a fine and be charged the cost of the fire department response to a burning complaint.  Residents are encouraged to report anyone who is illegally burning by calling the Regional Fire Dispatch Centre at 250-469-8577.

Fire departments throughout the Central Okanagan remind residents and visitors that all smoking materials should be carefully snuffed out and motorists are reminded not to toss cigarettes or other smoking materials from their vehicle.

Smoking is also not allowed in any RDCO regional park or municipal park in Kelowna and West Kelowna.  Smoking is also prohibited in children’s play areas, sports fields, undeveloped parks and wilderness trails in the District of Peachland.

Open burning has not been allowed within any jurisdiction of the Regional District and member municipalities since April 30.  As well, local bylaws prohibit the use of any fireworks at any time throughout most areas of the Central Okanagan.   Use of fireworks in the District of Lake Country and City of West Kelowna must be approved in writing by the Fire Chief.

Residents are reminded that anytime you see smoke, call 9-1-1 and report it.