If you have a campfire, you will be found and fined.
That’s the message the Conservation Officer Service wants campers to know, as they continue to conduct patrols throughout B.C., searching for those attempting to skirt the province-wide campfire ban.
Conservation officer Mike Stern says officers have been conducting patrols of provincial recreation sites and remote camping areas to enforce the ban, violations of which come with minimum $1,150 fines.
“There’s a $1,150 minimum fine for lighting the fire, and also people that are actually attending the fire can be held responsible, as well,” Stern said.
“Basically, those patrols are going to be ongoing until the campfire ban is over.”
Stern points out that the fine can hit up to $100,000 to $1 million if the campfire gets out of control and turns into a wildfire, and comes with up to a year in jail.
Conservation officers patrolling the campfire beat are taking on a zero-tolerance policy, according to Stern, and the COS Facebook page says 15 fines were issued last week alone.
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“COs are also reminding target shooters that the use of binary exploding targets are prohibited where fire restrictions are in place,” the Facebook post says.
For the most part, Stern said campers have been compliant with the campfire ban, either having no fires or using propane fires. Those are allowed in the province because of they don’t let out hot embers that can catch on tried foliage away from the campsite.
“The majority of the campers that we interact with usually have no fire or propane fire, and they’re very appreciative of the patrol efforts,” Stern said.
“A lot of campers are becoming more responsible in using propane in all their camping, even if there’s no ban.”
But not everyone is complying. Stern noted that COs working out of the Penticton office have handed out some fines, particularly in the Keremeos and Okanagan Falls areas, where there are more campsites.
“There’s evidence of older fires (in the Penticton area), but no one’s been there. It’s been like a day or two old,” Stern said.
“We’re basically patrolling everywhere. Everywhere. As in, everywhere you can think of, we’re there. … We turn over every rock, basically. We’re going down to every trail.”
Stern said most of those who get caught know that there’s a province-wide ban in place, but appear to think that they can get away with it.
“They are aware of the fire ban, and they’re thinking they could have gotten away with it,” he said. “In one incident, the individuals involved saw the conservation officers en route and tried to extinguish the fire before being apprehended.”
That didn’t work, though, and “significant fines” were handed out to each of the people involved in the fire, according to Stern.
Aside from those who have been fined, Stern said the general public has been largely in favour of the conservation officers’ patrols.
“These people put other campers at risk in backwoods, the ones that light fires,” Stern said. “If they (the fires) get away, then there’s other campers that are possibly in the area that could be in danger.”
Wildfires or campfires can be reported to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.