An ill-conceived and reckless romantic gesture on a Tofino beach has sparked outrage on social media.
Three videos posted to TikTok on Monday with the caption ‘He wanted to do something cute to show how much he loves me then did this,’ show a man and woman standing on Chesterman Beach in the middle of a heart seemingly made out of paper towels.
The man then drops a flaming torch onto the top of the heart and the couple embrace as the papers ignite, surrounding them in fire and dark smoke.
The pair are then seen putting the heart-shaped fire out by kicking sand onto the flames as the man comments on the “black smoke” surrounding them. No water buckets can be seen in the videos.
Another video of the same scene shows the man drinking a Budweiser before digging the heart shape in the sand with his hands and then cuts to the paper towels placed in the indents and the man holding a stick wrapped in paper for a makeshift torch.
“Would you do anything for the love of your life? Even if things aren’t always perfect?” the caption reads. “Because I would.”
The three TikTok videos have over 4.7 million views combined and over 487,000 likes. The account that posted them has 21,000 followers.
The videos remained up on Wednesday with the vast majority of their over 2,000 comments lambasting the couple and expressing shock and anger over the large fire being purposely set during a heavily publicized fire ban and the province’s worst wildfire season on record.
“You guys gotta be kidding me, I hope you get fined for this stunt during a fire ban,” wrote one commenter.
“Absolute disrespect. Ignorance at its finest,” wrote another.
“I hope you get a fine for this. This is not cute, it’s so irresponsible and disrespectful to the local community,” wrote another.
Others pointed out that a wildfire near Port Alberni blocked access to the community as Hwy. 4 was shut down from June 6-23 and the damage done by the blaze continues to cause closures as the highway was shut down in both directions on Aug. 9.
“There’s a fire ban for a reason, don’t promote this when our community was cut off for WEEKS due to a fire. Disrespectful at best,” wrote a commenter.
“She literally had to drive through the aftermath of the Alberni forest fire to get to Tofino,” wrote another.
Many of the comments note that Tofino is currently under Stage 3 water restrictions due to an ongoing and unprecedented drought.
During a town hall meeting held to discuss Tofino’s water situation last month, the district’s Director of Infrastructure and Public Works Aaron Rodgers suggested “a large fire at any time in any summer, let alone this summer, would put us immediately into Stage 4.”
“Reminder that there is currently a fire ban across the entire province of B.C. and a severe drought and water shortage in Tofino specifically,” wrote a TikTok commenter.
“This is soooo tone deaf. Did you not see the massive signs saying Tofino is in a water restriction and a fire ban currently?,” wrote another.
“Visits a remote population during a DROUGHT and PUBLICIZED WATER SHORTAGE only to create the most bootleg fire using paper??” wrote another.
Provincial law states that “Anyone found in contravention of a fire prohibition may be fined up to $1,150. If your fire escapes and results in a wildfire, you may be fined anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million and be sentenced to one year in prison.”
The video also caught the ire of Tofino resident and TikToker Hannah Tarrant.
“As a person who lives in Tofino full time, this is why we say we hate the tourists. You guys treat our beautiful bit of paradise like garbage,” Tarrant commented.
Tarrant also posted a response to her own TikTok page, which has over 101,000 followers.
“This is not cute. This happened in Tofino B.C. during an all-summer fire ban and level 3 water restrictions,” Tarrant said in her response video.
“Please guys, all I’m asking for anyone who sees this video is that you don’t do this without proper research. Honestly, this put the whole town at risk.”
Tofino mayor Dan Law told the Westerly News there are no excuses for setting fires during the current ban.
“If more people do stuff like this they’re going to regret it. That’s for sure. Anybody, anywhere in B.C. that is lighting fires outside is just being completely irresponsible. The reason the ban is on and the fines are so high is because the potential for massive, catastripohic destruction is so high,” he said. “This is the biggest wildfire season B.C. has ever had by far…People that can read the news and be anywhere in B.C. and still light fires outside, I would say it’s inexcusable.”
He added that Tofino has put “considerable energy into addressing beach fires” and has seen success in cutting down on illegal flames.
“We have seen vast improvements,” he said. “The vast majority of people on the beach are using propane rings or not having fires at all.”
He noted the district has an RCMP Reservist as well as a bylaw enforcement team on patrol.
“Our fines are quite high. So, people that do make the mistake of having a fire on the beach, or anywhere in Tofino are potentially facing hefty fines and they’re not going to be able to get out of it,” he said.
He declined to speculate on whether the TikTokers who set the fire will be caught, but noted that they recorded and posted their behaviour.
“I can say that if people are going to do stupid, illegal things, I’m kind of glad they filmed themselves in the act. It does certainly help enforcement,” he said.
@hannahtarrant3 #stitch with @Ashley the vibe is burn down the whole town. #tofinobc #vancouverisland #canada #beachvibes #tofino #fireban #touristbelike #pleaserespectnature ♬ original sound - Hannah Tarrant
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