Open burning: North Okanagan fire department issues safety reminder after rash of grass fires

After responding to multiple grass fires last week, the BX-Swan Lake fire department is reminding citizens about safe, open burning. Submitted

Following multiple grass fires in the North Okanagan last week, the BX-Swan Lake Fire Department is reminding citizens of rules regarding open fires in the district.

Between October 31 and April 30, the North Okanagan regional district allows open burning with a valid permit in Electoral B and C fire protection areas.

However, when it comes to open burning, the fire department is reminding residents to take precautions, such as having at least one person at the fire at all times with fire-extinguishing equipment.

Read more: West Kelowna fire crews battle, extinguish 2 grass fires at opposite ends of city

The fire department also suggests that branches, prunings and stumps have dried out for a minimum of 180 days and a fire that does not exceed over two metres high by three metres wide.

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“The grass in our area is dry right now,” said BX-Swan Lake fire chief Bill Wacey. “Open-air fires must be supervised at all times until the fire is extinguished.

“Do not turn your back even for a moment, as the wind can pick-up suddenly and cause the fire to spread.”

The fire department added that the venting index must be in the good category.

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The provincial ventilation index has three categories on a 0-to-100 scale: Poor (0-33); Fair (34-54) and Good (55-100). For more about venting indexes, click here.

“The venting index is updated each morning and afternoon, so use the most up-to-date information,” the BX-Swan Lake Fire Department said in a statement.

Fines for not complying with the RDNO Bylaw No. 2514 can range from $50 to $2,000.

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The fire department provided a checklist to follow before burning.

  • Check that your permit is valid and there are no fire bans or restrictions.
  • Ensure that your burn pile is less than two metres high, three metres wide, and more than ten metres away from anything.
  • Build your pile out of stumps, trunks, branches, and prunings that have dried for a minimum of 180 days.
  • Have a competent supervisor on-site at all times with water and extinguishing equipment.
  • Make sure the venting index is 55 or higher.

“We repeatedly respond to calls where burning is happening while the venting index is lower than 55 (on the ventilation index), which is prohibited by law,” said Wacey.

“Do not assume that since it’s a clear sunny day that the venting index allows for burning. The day’s weather is not a good indicator of the venting.”

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