Campfire bans eyed as drought continues on B.C. coast 

click to enlarge PHOTOGRAPH BY NICK PROCAYLO - A helicopter dumps sea water on an out-of-control wildfire, about three hectares in size near the Sea to Sky Highway.
  • Photograph By NICK PROCAYLO
  • A helicopter dumps sea water on an out-of-control wildfire, about three hectares in size near the Sea to Sky Highway.

Provincial forest fire officials may declare some campfire bans as early as this week on the B.C. coast, including Vancouver Island, in response to drought conditions.

In the meantime, they are warning while campfires remain legal they should be kept small, about the size of a camp cooler. Bonfires, party fires or other large fires are not allowed.

Donna MacPherson, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre in Parksville, said decisions about any bans on campfires would be made in the days ahead, before the upcoming Canada Day long weekend.

"But it's a good time to let people know if you are enjoying a campfire now do it safely," said MacPherson. "Keep it small and put it out completely when you walk away."

She said a safe campfire should be no wider than 1/2 metre, roughly equal to the size of a small cooler. Anything bigger is not allowed.

MacPherson said the coastal area is now in a drought situation that began last fall.

Neither the month of June nor the past winter brought the amount of rain normally expected for coastal B.C. So forests and ground conditions are dry.

MacPherson noted, however, Environment Canada has said coastal weather will be unsettled in coming days and will likely bring showers. Rain may dampen things down.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, forest firefighters are battling a ground fire estimated at three hectares in size just north of Horseshoe Bay.

MacPherson said crews on the scene range in size from small, three-person initial-attack crews to larger 20-person sustained action crews.

Also working on the fire are five helicopters, one tanker plane and a skimmer group of four aircraft which have been using the ocean to replenish.

All the aircraft have been dropping combinations of water and fire retardant to keep the fire from over-running or escaping away from the firefighters.

The fire is in a cliff area under trees so terrain is a little tough, said MacPherson.

But on Sunday afternoon the fire was still categorized as a "ground fire," meaning it had not ignited the trees.

"So it's not that 'wall of flame' that people imagine when they think of forest fires," said MacPherson.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the coastal area, including Vancouver Island, all seemed relatively peaceful, with no other fires out of control.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

This article originally appeared here.

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