Forest fire prevention in the Columbia Valley

Forest fire prevention is a huge concern in the Columbia Valley each year, especially during the late spring, summer and fall seasons. Although forest fires can devastate our natural environment at any time of the year, in our area, ‘fire season’ runs from approximately early May until early October.

Forest Fire Prevention - Kelowna interface fire, 2003
This 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire caused the evacuation of 26,000 people in the Kelowna area. (Photo by Provincial Emergency Program)

Our normally hot, dry summers render the forests and grasslands tinder dry and highly vulnerable to catastrophic fires, generally keeping firefighters busy throughout the season.

In 2015, during the fire season, one of the busiest in recent history, 283,400 hectares were destroyed by fire at a cost of $278 million in wildfire engagements.

In 2016, in response to the grave concerns of all British Columbians, the BC government announced a severe crack-down on reckless behavior by humans. There was:

  •  a hefty increase in fines for 19 different violations under the Wildfire Act
  •  7 additional wildfire regulations.

This move has brought violation ticket fines in BC to some of the highest in the country. It will pay to seriously consider these fines before you plan your hike or camping trip this season.

Wildfire Act violation ticket fines
Wildfire Act violation ticket fines (effective April 1, 2016)

  • Section 2, Fail to report fire: $383
  • Section 3 (1), Drop, release or mishandle burning substance: $575
  • Section 3 (2), Fail to extinguish burning substance: $575
  • Section 5 (1), Light, fuel or use fire against regulations: $1,150
  • Section 5 (2) (a), Fail to extinguish fire: $575
  • Section 5 (2) (b), Fail to report fire: $575
  • Section 6 (1), Light, fuel or use fire against regulations, industrial: $1,150
  • Section 7 (1), Fail to assess fire hazard: $767
  • Section 7 (2), Fail to abate fire hazard: $1,150
  • Section 7 (4), Fail to comply with hazard abatement order: $1,150
  • Section 10 (3), Light, fuel or use fire against restriction: $1,150
  • Section 10 (4), Fail to comply with fire restriction: $1,150
  • Section 11 (2), Fail to comply with restricted area requirements: $767
  • Section 12 (2), Fail to comply with order restricting activity or use: $767
  • Section 13 (2), Fail to comply with order to leave area: $767
  • Section 16 (2), Fail to comply with fire control order: $575
  • Section 22 (2), Fail to stop vehicle or vessel: $575
  • Section 22 (3), Fail to provide documents: $383
  • Section 56 (2), Intentional interference, non-compliance or false statement: $1,150
Wildfire Regulation violation ticket fines
Wildfire Regulation violation ticket fines (effective April 1, 2016)

  • Section 5, Fail to have sufficient fire tools: $307
  • Section 6 (3), Fail to comply with high risk activity restrictions, and keep at activity site firefighting hand tools and adequate fire suppression system: $460
  • Section 6 (4), Fail to meet fire watcher requirements: $460
  • Section 8, Operate engine contrary to regulations: $460
  • Section 9, Fail to meet fire prevention measures – railway operations: $767
  • Section 10, Fail to meet fire prevention measures – transmission operations: $767
  • Section 13 (1), Fail to meet fire suppression responsibilities: $307
Information about the Southeast Fire Centre
Southeast Fire Centre

South East Fire Centre Zones - Map Image credit -
South East Fire Centre Zones – Map Image credit –

The Columbia Valley is part of the Southeast Fire Centre, headquartered in Castlegar, with bases in Cranbrook, Invermere, Golden, Nelson, Grand Forks and Revelstoke. The 18 million acres (8 million hectares) it services contain every kind of terrain -– from steep ground and heavy timber in the north Columbia to the grasslands of East Kootenay, the mixed fuel types and mountainous regions of West Kootenay and the semi-arid rangeland of South Boundary -– and each requires different fire-fighting techniques and tools.

The Southeast Fire Centre responds, on average, to more than 500 fires each year and statistics show that approximately half of them are caused by human activity, the other half by lightning.

Suggestions for fire Safety
Suggestions for fire safety

fire-1103289_960_720The British Columbia Forest Service asks residents and visitors alike to make forest fire prevention a top priority when hiking or camping out-of-doors. If you are camping in our wilderness areas this summer, please remember a few tips to ensure that you leave the forest in the healthy, beautiful condition in which you found it:

  • Your campfire must be no larger than a half metre wide by a half metre high. Smaller is better.
  • If there is no fire pit, make a ring of rocks at least 3 metres from any trees.
  • Maintain a fireguard by removing flammable debris such as leaves, twigs, etc. from the campfire area.
  • Never leave your campfire unattended.
  • Keep a shovel or at least 8 litres of water nearby with which to properly extinguish your fire before you leave.

Many forest fires are caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette butt. Make sure that cigarettes are completely extinguished before throwing them away.

Information about open fire bans during 'fire season'
Open fires banned during ‘fire season’

fireban_1With the exception of campfires, all open fires, including fireworks and burning barrels, are prohibited within the Southeast Fire Centre during the spring-to-fall period of fire restrictions. During particularly bad fire seasons, sometimes even campfires are banned.  Wherever local government bylaws are in place, they take precedence so make sure you check with your regional district, local municipality or fire department regarding these bylaws.

Forest fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility, but what if you do spot a fire? Immediately contact the fire service and leave the area. Fires spread quickly. The 24-hour fire reporting line is 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on most cellular networks. Leave a message, reporting the location of the fire.

According to the ministry, anyone “lighting larger fires, or more than two fires of any size, must comply with burning regulations and obtain a burn registration number” by calling 1-888-797-1717.

For the latest information on forest fire prevention, fire activity, bans and restrictions as well as current fire-weather conditions, please visit the Wildfire Management Branch website at

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