Ahead of the May long weekend, the province is offering advice to campers about how to stay safe over the three-day break.

In a statement released earlier this week, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy issued a few reminders to those heading to provincial parks for Victoria Day.

BC Parks will be busy

Included in the ministry's advice was to plan ahead, as parks and campgrounds are expected to fill up fast. The long weekend serves as the unofficial start to camping season, and many sites are already reserved.

First-come, first-served sites are offered in many campgrounds, but will likely be claimed quickly.

Increase in rangers, officers

Visitors to BC Parks can expect to see an increased park ranger presence. The province said rangers, as well as conservation officers, will be monitoring the campgrounds to "help ensure public safety."

They'll also be there to protect the natural environment and ecosystems, the ministry said in its statement.

Campfire rules

Anyone lighting a fire is asked to follow the rules, including that fires must be kept to 0.5 metres in height and diameter. There must be a one-metre fireguard around any fire where flammable materials like grass and kindling have been removed.

Campfires cannot be left unattended, and campers should have a shovel or at least eight litres of water handy to help put out a fire.

"Always ensure ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area," the ministry said.

Additionally, firewood should not be gathered from areas of the park but should instead be brought from home or purchased from a park facility operator.

In the backcountry, fires aren't permitted everywhere, so campers are asked to look at the specific BC Parks Protected Area web page or ask BC Parks staff before visiting.

If allowed, fires should be built at least three metres from logs, stumps and wooden structures, and should be built in a pit or contained by a fire ring.

The same fire size limits apply, and anyone caught with a fire larger than 0.5 metres in height and diameter could be fined $345.

No smoking in some spots

BC Parks' smoking policy is in effect year-round, but the province reminded park-goers that smoking and vaping of tobacco, cannabis or other substances is only allowed in designated sites.

"This policy is designed to allow people and families to enjoy their stay in a park or campground by minimizing the exposure of second-hand smoke," the ministry says.

"Additionally, this policy reduces the risk of wildfires and protects wildlife and the environment from hazardous effects of cigarette butts and other litter associated with smoking."

In the event of a wildfire, or if a member of the public spots an unattended fire, reports can be made through a toll-free hotline at 1-800-663-5555.

Pet policies

Pets are permitted at frontcountry parks, but must be on a leash at all times. They're not allowed in day-use and beach areas, nor can they enter park buildings.

Owners are responsible for their behaviour and expected to pick up after them.

In the backcountry, officials don't recommend campers bring their pets along, as they can disturb other campers, foul trails and lead to issues with bears.

Those who are still determined to bring their dog are advised to make sure pets are permitted, as some parks ban domestic animals entirely.