As British Columbia’s wildfire season heats up, a petition calling for a provincewide open burning ban is starting to gain ground.
Cambria Volonte, who lives in Cariboo Region town of Bridge Lake, started the petition two weeks ago as more and more fires started sparking across the Interior.
The petition gained 1,000 supporters in a little more than a week and now boasts nearly 1,700 signatures, which Volonte says speaks to how rational the idea is.
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“We don’t need to be having campfires in backcountry,” she said on Sunday. “There’s propane firepits, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the experience in a safer way.
“What I wanted to accomplish with the petition is to give people a voice to say enough is enough.”
Nearly 200 wildfires have already sparked across the province since April 1 this year, and more than 95 per cent of them are suspected to have been caused by human activity.
Many of the most devastating wildfires of the past two years were also human-caused, including the Elephant Hill wildfire that burned more than 190,000 hectares just south of the Cariboo in 2017.
Volonte says she watched the flames creep towards her community “for about nine weeks” and doesn’t want a similar catastrophe happening as a result of human error.
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“It would feel good, I believe, to know that it’s not humans who are out there starting these massive super fires,” she said.
The B.C. Wildfire Service’s policy is to impose open burning bans on a regional basis based on wildfire risk, as weather and other factors can vary across the province.
Fire information officer Erin Catherall said that’s still the best way to manage the issue, adding that the province’s camping season starts at the same time as wildfire season.
“Many enjoy camping in B.C.’s parks during the spring months so it doesn’t serve everyone well to prohibit everyone’s campfire use when fire risk is low,” she said.
She added that the forestry sector also conducts open burning during low-risk periods to help reduce wildfire risk.
While the number of human-caused wildfires so far this year is cause for concern, Catherall clarified that only two of those 184 fires were sparked by campfires, and there are plenty of other ways humans can cause a blaze.
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“One of the primary causes of fires are mechanical,” she said. “These can include things like handheld devices like flare guns or bear bangers, exhaust and backfire from motor engines and fragmented, hot metal.”
But Volonte says campfires are still too much of a risk as B.C. stares down another hot and dry summer, and she is hoping people either use alternatives like propane firepits or just cancel their fire plans altogether.
“You may not be using the backcountry; it may not matter that you have a fire,” she said. “But what does matter is that your children or grandchildren have clean air.”
—With files from Tanya Beja