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7 human-caused wildfires reported in B.C.'s Cariboo region in single day

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An out-of-control wildfire in B.C.’s Cariboo region that sparked Saturday has exploded in size, according to officials, who say the blaze is one of a number that were human-caused.

The Burgess Creek Wildfire, burning about 45 kilometres south of Quesnel, was estimated at 50 hectares Saturday. By Sunday at noon, it was estimated to have grown to 1,600 hectares.

Fire Information Officer Madison Dahl says the growth was significant but not surprising given the conditions.

“It is very dry and we did have very strong winds,” she told CTV News.

The blaze is visible from Highway 97 as well as the communities of Quesnel and Williams Lake. No evacuation alerts or orders have been issued and a “full response” is underway that includes ground crews, aircraft and heavy equipment.

“The BC Wildfire Service uses a full response when there is threat to public safety and/or property and other values, such as infrastructure or timber. Immediate action is taken. During a full response, a wildfire is suppressed and controlled until it is deemed ‘out,’” the service’s website explains.

Dahl says this fire was one of seven reported throughout the Cariboo Fire Centre Saturday afternoon – and that all the fires were human caused and therefore “entirely preventable.” The other six wildfires are now either, out, under control or being held, she said.

Even so, Dahl says this number of fires on a single day this early in the season is a “pretty substantial number to respond to.”

Category 2 and 3 fire bans have been in effect in the region since March 28, a measure brought in – at least in part – to try to minimize the number of human-caused wildfires amid persistently warm and dry conditions.

Fireworks and sky lanterns are banned, as is all open burning. Only campfires are permitted in the region, which means fires can't be bigger than half a metre wide and half a metre tall. 

“Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all fire fighting and associated costs, as well as the value of resources damaged or destroyed by the wildfire,” the notice of this year’s ban cautions.

Last year's wildfire season was the most destructive on record, burning more than 2.84-million hectares of land, along with hundreds of homes and other structures. The fires also prompted evacuations that temporarily displaced tens of thousands of residents.

Correction

A previous version of this story suggested some open burning is permitted. In fact, only Category 1 campfires are permitted in the Cariboo region as of April 21.

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