The forest fire danger rating at the Malcolm Knapp UBC Research Forest moved to “high” on Sunday, and has remained there for the past three days.
The high fire danger rating means “Forest fuels are very dry and the fire risk is serious. New fires may start easily, burn vigorously, and challenge fire suppression efforts. Extreme caution must be used in any forest activities. Open burning and industrial activities may be restricted.”
The fire danger, which is updated daily by the B.C. Wildfire Service, is rate high or extreme across much of southern B.C.
Campfires were still permitted across B.C. as of Tuesday morning.
For those working at the UBC Research Forest, the high rating means limits on their machine work, and a fire watch must be done for 1-3 hours after using equipment, including lawnmowers and chain saws, explained Liz Smith, business improvement coordinator.
The public is not permitted to have fires in the forest at any time. She noted the forest receives a high forest fire danger rating most years, and this is late in the summer for the first high rating.
There have not been major fires in the forest for a long time. In 1868, a large fire swept through the western side of the forest, burning everything but the wettest pockets of land around lakes and stream basins. Local historical records indicate the fire was accidentally started by local settlers clearing land, during a particularly dry season. In 1971, there was a large fire that burned approximately 70 hectares.
Assistant fire chief Michael Van Dop said the Maple Ridge fire department hasn’t noted a significant uptick in terms of calls.
He said as the weather changes, with a low system coming into the Lower Mainland through the later part of this week, the fire danger rating could again go to low.
Fire officials are not at the point where they are considering doing a fire ban at any point.
“We just urge the public to be wise about what they’re doing in the backcountry and on their property, given that it is summer and people are enjoying themselves,” said Van Dop.
“Just be intelligent about what you’re doing, and make sure you’re being fire safe.”