Smoke from above the Coastal mountains (BC Wildfire Service)

Campfire, off-road bans limited new long-weekend wildfires in B.C.: officials

Last week, the province banned the use of off-road vehicles in much of southern B.C.

Restrictions meant to help stave off new wildfires in tinder-dry British Columbia appear to be working as people enjoy the long weekend, officials say.

Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service said there were 127 fires burning across B.C. Sunday morning, but only six of those were sparked the day before.

With hot, dry conditions persisting throughout the province, the low number speaks to how people have reacted to prohibitions on off-road vehicles and campfires, he said.

RELATED: Campfire and off-road vehicle bans in effect

“I think generally people are getting the message,” he said. “I think that speaks to the fact that people are taking the threat of human-caused fires seriously. With conditions that dire, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to be getting dozens of new fires a day.”

Last week, the province banned the use of off-road vehicles in much of southern B.C., saying the prohibition was necessary to stop sparks or hot tail pipes from igniting extremely dry fuel in the forests and grasslands.

Campfire bans have also been in effect throughout much of the province for several weeks.

But one man in Williams Lake has been fined $1,000 for what RCMP have called a careless act that could have made the wildfire situation worse in B.C.’s already scorched Interior.

Williams Lake RCMP were called early Saturday morning for reports of fireworks being launched. Police said in a release that officers responded and found several empty fireworks canisters on a man’s property.

Police said an allegedly intoxicated 34-year-old man told the officers he set off the fireworks in celebration of returning home after several nearby wildfires forced the community to evacuate.

“It is careless acts such as this that have the real potential to trigger even more interface wildfires in the area,” Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said in a release.

Nearly 892 wildfires in B.C. have charred an estimated 5,910 square kilometres – an area about the size of Prince Edward Island – since April 1.

About 3,800 people were battling the flames Sunday and the wildfire service said their numbers will be bolstered in the coming days by more than 400 firefighters and support staff arriving from New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and the Unites States.

RELATED: More international firefighters deployed to battle B.C. wildfires

“Given the unprecedented nature of the B.C. wildfires, we appreciate the assistance our international partners are able to provide,” Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said in a statement.

The cost of the international help will be covered by the province, which has spent $230 million on fire suppression this year.

Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC said Sunday that almost 7,000 people remain displaced from their homes by the flames, while another 26,000 have been warned that they may need to leave at a moment’s notice.

Some residents of communities put on evacuation orders and alerts have questioned the process, criticizing how much information is being released via social media versus other methods.

Duffy said the internet are tools that can be used to inform people and he encourages people to use as many tools as possible as the fire season.

“Given how dynamic the situation is, I would recommend using as many of those as possible,” he said.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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