Fire ban now in effect in select CVRD communities

A fire ban is now in effect for Ladysmith, North Oyster and Saltair, but the Municipality of North Cowichan has opted out.

Hot, dry weather and a looming risk of thunderstorms prompted the Coastal Fire Centre (CFC) to impose a fire ban for much of Vancouver Island and the South Coast, but not all Cowichan Valley Regional District municipalities have followed suit.

The CFC imposed the ban Thursday, August 1, at 12 p.m. and according to a press release issued by the CFC July 31, the ban applies to “all open fires, including campfires” in the CFC’s coverage region — Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Haida Gwaii and the southern half of coastal mainland B.C. — save for the “Fog Zone” on Vancouver Island’s west coast and Haida Gwaii.

Communities serviced by their own fire departments are not subject to the fire ban, but Ladysmith Fire Chief Ray Delcourt said Ladysmith routinely follows suit, imposing fire bans within Town limits that conform to the CFC’s scheduled restrictions.

A fire ban is now in place for Ladysmith and will remain in effect until the CFC lifts its ban, Delcourt said.

That same ban applies to the North Oyster fire protection district, but the Municipality of North Cowichan, meanwhile, has decided not to impose a ban, Chemainus Fire Chief Neil Rukus said.

Rukus confirmed that while Saltair is serviced by a North Cowichan fire hall (Chemainus’), the CFC ban is now in effect in Saltair, too.

Danger ratings of “high” to “extreme” led the CFC to impose the ban in order to “prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety.”

Prohibited are “open fires of any size, fires with a burn registration number, industrial burning, fireworks, tiki torches, sky lanterns and burning barrels.”

The Ladysmith Days “Fireworks Spectacular” — to be staged from a barge anchored off Transfer Beach Park Sunday night — has received an exemption from the ban, Delcourt confirmed.

CSA- or ULC-approved portable stoves burning briquettes, liquid fuel or pressurized fuel are exempt from the ban provided the flames they produce are less than 15 centimetres tall.

Violations of the fire ban can result in fines of up to $345, the notice states, and anyone responsible for causing wildfires through arson or recklessness “may be fined for up to $1 million, spend up to three years in prison and be held accountable for associated firefighting costs.

The prohibition will remain in effect until October 15 or until the CFC rescinds the ban.

Elizabeth Neumann, an employee at Country Maples RV Resort in Chemainus, said the ban won’t have much of an impact on campers visiting their park save possibly for the odd tenter.

“The die-hards will still come,” Neumann said, “but people who come once a year and whose whole idea is to sit around a campfire and do s’mores and all that fun stuff, they may think twice about coming camping. But that’s just a very small minority of people.”

Neumann said Country Maples has “lots of staff,” making the job of enforcing fire bans an easy one as the majority of campers willingly extinguish their fires when they learn a ban is in effect.