‘You burn it, you buy it’: Campaign aims to show the cost of careless human-caused wildfires
Backcountry visitors in Metro Vancouver may have seen some unusual price tags hanging from the trees in popular recreation areas this week, but don’t be fooled — they’re not for sale.
The tags, some with hefty figures on them just shy of $1 million, were part of a campaign meant to raise awareness about preventing wildfires amid another brutal fire season.
The message? “You burn it, you buy it.”
Outdoor Recreation Council spokesperson Natalia Pisarek said the three-foot price tags were meant to represent the hefty new fines associated with careless fire behaviour.
“What we are doing there is actually drawing attention to fines that have increased this past spring so we’re not putting a price on trees,” she said.
“We want people to be more cognizant of what it can cost you personally to start a wildfire, but that leads into the discussion of what it costs to the environment — the economic costs, the human costs. It’s devastating what a wildfire can do.”
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British Columbia beefed up wildfire-related fines both this past spring and in 2016 in response to the growing seasonal threat.
Fines range from $383 for failing to report a fire up to a possible court-imposed fine of $1 million and three years in jail for starting a wildfire with an off-road vehicle that doesn’t have a spark protector.
Breaking a fire ban, as many people did over the B.C. Day long weekend, carries a $1,150 fine.
The ORC said last year, B.C. officials levied 124 fines over a three-month period and that 10-year B.C. Wildfire Service data shows that between 30 and 60 per cent of the province’s wildfires are caused by humans.
The massive Elephant Hill wildfire that destroyed more than 120 homes in 2017 was one of those human-caused blazes.
Pisarek said the idea was to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors while getting the message out that backcountry use must be responsible.
“Many people don’t realize how easy it is to start a fire,” she said.
“We need to be careful year-round, but during this time of year when the weather is very hot, when things are very dry … Even discarded glass, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service, can ignite a fire.”
Campfires, hot exhaust pipes and power tools are also possible starting points for fires, the ORC says.
WATCH: Firefighters demonstrate how quickly fires can start
With fire danger ratings at either “high” or “extreme” around Metro Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver’s acting assistant fire chief Gunter Kramer said it’s crucial that people are extra careful.
He said while there are many people who are attentive to the situation, there are enough people who are careless to be a cause for concern.
“A lot of people don’t get it. They just don’t think about it, but it doesn’t take much at all,” he said.
“It just takes a cigarette butt in the wrong position, a little bit of wind, a little bit of coverage, sun right on it and it starts really, really quick.”
Kramer encouraged the public to be vigilant and respectful of fire danger signage and said anyone who sees a fire should call 911 immediately.
The ORC said the signs were only up for a few hours and were removed to ensure no environmental impact.
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