BC Wildfire Service, conservation officers encourage caution in backcountry

By Jill Sperling
August 1, 2017 - 3:45pm Updated: August 1, 2017 - 5:40pm

KAMLOOPS — One month after a province-wide state of emergency was declared due to fires burning across B.C., the BC Wildfire Service has yet to issue a broad closure of the backcountry. 

"There are certain areas that have had restricted access put on, certainly up near Ashcroft and around Little Fort, there have been area restrictions put in place, however right now there has not been a need yet to close other areas of the forest," said fire information officer Max Birkner.

Conservation officers are patrolling the tinder-dry backcountry daily, ensuring people are aware of, and not adding to the fire risk. 

"Most evenings we're running into one activity or one illegal activity that we deal with typically through a ticketable fine," said conservation officer Kevin Van Damme. "Anyone out having a campfire, throwing cigarette butts on the ground are going to be subject to a fine at this time." 

Conservation officers are also on the lookout or off-road vehicles, like ATVs and dirt bikes, that don't meet provincial requirements. 

"It is a requirement for all off-road vehicles to have a spark arrestor," Van Damme said. "That's just a device that holds and controls any sparks that come from mufflers in an all-terrain vehicle, and it prevents it from getting onto the ground." 

In Alberta, the use of off-road vehicles have been restricted in areas, but in B.C., where the smallest spark can ignite the extremely dry grasses, there is no ban. 

However, the BC Wildfire Service is encouraging extreme caution. 

"We are cognizant that there is a danger posed by those vehicles and we're asking people who operate those types of vehicles to be responsible in their use," Birkner said. "However, where we're at right now there's currently no need for an area restriction, however, we are able to put on an area restriction for those forest areas should it become necessary."

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