It's the time of year when raking up a winter's worth of debris results in large piles of organic waste that smother the grass in the middle of your yard.
While it may be tempting to burn it - after all, it's been a very wet spring - local residents are reminded to refrain. In Whistler, backyard burning was banned three years ago in favour of a composting program.
The ban was reinforced by a new bylaw restricting all kinds of fire except proper campfires within the municipality (and even those have to meet strict criteria).
"To eliminate potential fire hazard and to also help with air quality in the valley here, those non-campfire yard waste type fires were banned and campfires are now tightly regulated to ensure they don't occur at times we are at risk of very respiratory problems due to levels of particulates in the air, and high fire hazard," said Michael Day, manager of environmental operations for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
"Of course being a forested valley as we are, certainly there are lots of times during the summer when there is a very high risk to the public due to fires - and to general development."
To help people dispose of their backyard clippings, dead grass, branches and other detritus, the RMOW implemented the Yard Waste Drop Off Program, which takes place in the spring (last weekend) and fall. During the rest of the year residents pay a reduced fee of $30/metric ton to take their yard waste to the transfer station.
"Because we have a community composting facility, that provides an excellent way of dealing with such yard waste and in order to encourage the diversion of yard waste to be composted, council did agree that it makes sense to combine yard and wood waste in one category and that thereby greatly reduced the tipping fee for large quantities of yard waste," continued Day.
"It was a three edged sword - less fire risk, less public health risk, and reduction in costs to operate the compost facility."
In Squamish, residents are reminded that the permitted open burn days ended on May 8 and that campfire regulations set by the Wildfire Act are in place. Appropriate campfires cannot exceed a half-meter in both diameter and height, and must be safely contained by a fireguard to prevent spreading. A shovel or at least eight litres of water must be handy nearby to extinguish the fire completely. Those who burn after the ban face hefty fines from local fire professionals.
"We occasionally catch people burning out of season and will send a bylaw officer by," said Squamish fire chief Tom Easterbrook. "In the worst case scenario we'll go by and extinguish a fire then send an invoice for the service and they won't like it because it's a pretty good sized invoice. It will be for minimum cost and in the range of about $500."
An average of 134 forest fires are started each year due to improperly managed campfires at an estimated cost of $2.2 million to the province.
Effective Monday, May 16, Category 2 open fires were prohibited in parts of the Coastal Fire Centre's jurisdiction, which includes all BC Parks, Crown and private lands, but does not apply within the boundaries of local governments that have open fire bylaws and are serviced by a fire department.
The Coastal Fire Centre covers the area west of the height of land on the Coast Mountain Range from the U.S. / Canada border at Manning Park, including South Tweedsmuir Park in the north, the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland, all of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii.
For the latest information on fire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit the Wildfire Management Branch website at www.bcwildfire.ca.
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