Pitt Lake, Alouette Lake, Stave Lake: people are still lighting campfires.
And the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, (BCCOS), is warning those individuals who are ignoring the province-wide campfire ban that if caught they will be fined – $1,150 for any individual who lights a fire and possibly to anyone else who is either enjoying the fire or using it.
People can also face up to one year in jail and be ordered to pay firefighting costs if a fire they light sparks a wildfire.
On Saturday, July 17, the BCCOS had a report that there was a fire along Alouette Lake. However when they arrived the fire was out and the people were gone.
Apparently, said conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter, the person who reported the fire told the culprits to put it out and told them conservation was en route.
Conservation also encountered a group of people loading their boat with firewood to go camping along the lake.
“When they were questioned why they were loading up their boat with firewood they were totally oblivious to the fact that there’s a fire restriction province-wide,” said Hunter, adding that they complied and left the firewood behind.
However, not everybody has been so lucky as to not receive a fine.
In the BCCOS Fraser North Zone, which includes Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Mission, three tickets have been handed out so far, said Hunter. Two at Stave Lake.
One was handed out on the same Saturday, when one of Hunter’s officers came across a person who was trying to hide the fact that they had a campfire going as they camped illegally in the day-use area of Kearsley Creek. They were also evicted from the site.
The other was given out in the middle of the night to a person at Rocky Point Recreation area along Stave.
“We were actually responding to a bear call out there in the middle of the night”, said Hunter.
Another campfire was reported to them along Devils lake, just west of Stave, on Sunday night. They responded but only found the remnants of the fire.
Yesterday, the Fraser North Zone #BCCOS responded to complaints re: campfires fires on the shore of Alouette Lake. One group was even encountered loading their boat up with firewood intended for a weekend of campfires and camping; they are just camping now. pic.twitter.com/HvnsCHU9fH
— BC CO Service (@_BCCOS) July 18, 2021
The province announced a B.C.-wide campfire ban that took effect on June 30 that also included Category 2 and 3 open fires, as well as the use of fireworks, sky lanterns and chimneys and tiki torches.
Currently there are 282 active fires burning across the province, up by 16 in the last two days.
Hunter said they are beside themselves that people are continuing to light campfires.
So, not only will conservation officers still be patrolling those areas, but they will be upping their game, he said.
“We are not going to nice about it. We can’t. It’s one of those things that jeopardizes people’s safety,” he said, especially with a backcountry that butts up against significant agricultural areas and major city centres.
Stu Burgess, operations manager for both Golden Ears and Rolley Lake Provincial Parks, said he has had a number of park visitors who have decided to light campfires since the implementation of the fire ban. Some, he said, on campsites and others on beaches and day-use areas. Some they found out about during the course of their regular patrols, and others they responded to because of reports made to the Maple Ridge Fire Department or to B.C. Wildlife Service.
“Everyone that we have come across having a campfire has been removed from the park,” he said.
Burgess is aware of fires being set further up along Alouette Lake outside of his area of responsibility, but is unsure of the numbers. Although, he noted, B.C. Parks does respond to them.
“I can’t emphasize enough the danger that people lighting campfires in the park during the fire ban pose,” said Burgess
“The fire danger is now ‘extreme’, and with only one road in and out of the park, a wildfire that cuts off road access could have disastrous results,” he added.
Hunter also noted the dangers, especially with campgrounds full at Golden Ears park.
“We’ll be out there and ready to issue those tickets for sure,” he said.
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