Fire officials have banned most open burning across British Columbia beginning at noon on April 16.
The ban will apply to all open fires except campfires, as well as the use of fireworks and sky lanterns.
The goal is to reduce demand on firefighting resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a bulletin issued by the BC Wildfire Service on Tuesday. This will protect the health and safety of the public and wildfire service staff, as well as reduce the effects of wildfire smoke on air quality.
"A strategic deployment of wildfire management resources is critical this fire season, so it is especially important to reduce the number of unnecessary, human-caused wildfires," the wildfire service said in the bulletin. "It is vital BC Wildfire Service staff remain healthy to respond to wildfires throughout the 2020 season and ensure the BC Wildfire Service's response capability is not affected."
The ban on open burning will apply to all public and private land in B.C., unless specified otherwise by a municipal bylaw or other local government restriction.
Anyone found to be violating the ban could be issued a ticket for $1,150 or face larger penalties, depending on the situation. If convicted in court, a violator could face fines as high as $100,000, as well as potential jail time, according to the wildfire service.
In the case of a wildfire caused by illegal open burning, the person responsible could be ordered to pay for the entire cost of fighting that fire.
"During the current pandemic, larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection and response capabilities," the wildfire service said. "The open burning prohibitions coming into effect on April 16 should decrease the number of false alarms, where firefighters respond to a report of smoke, only to find the smoke is coming from a controlled burn and not from a wildfire."
The new prohibitions build on existing ones that were put in place last month in response to concerns about the effects of air pollution on COVID-19 patients.