Open burning restrictions for places like Quesnel that are considered high smoke sensitivity zones are being extended through to mid-June.
The provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in collaboration with provincial public health partners, is continuing open burning restrictions for all high smoke sensitivity zones across the province until Monday, June 15. Quesnel is included as one of these zones.
Pursuant to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation, no new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires. These restrictions do not apply to campfires.
Open burning restrictions were originally announced March 26 and were originally in place until April 15.
As cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in B.C. continue to increase, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) recommends implementing measures that help reduce excess air pollution in populated airsheds across the province, according to a news release from the provincial government.
“There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function,” the release notes.
According to this release, this means that deterioration in air quality may lead to more COVID-19 infections overall; deterioration in air quality may lead to more cases of severe COVID-19 infections, adding further demand on our health care system; and improvements to air quality may help to protect the whole population from COVID-19 and its potentially severe effects.
“Evidence suggests air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning,” states the news release. “At this time, the BCCDC recommends that open burning of biomass fuels be restricted in areas with high or moderate risk of population exposure to the resulting smoke.”
While the focus should remain on physical distancing from others to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the number of cases, keeping our air as clean as possible will also help to protect the population during this difficult period.
The announcement of the continuation of high smoke sensitivity zone burning restrictions came two days before a ban on most open burning activities across most of B.C. comes into effect Thursday, April 16 at noon.
The restrictions include Category 2 and 3 open fires. The ban also includes the use of fireworks, sky lanterns and the use of burn barrels or cases of any size or description.
These prohibitions apply to all public and private land within British Columbia unless specified otherwise, such as in a local government bylaw.
A Category 2 open fire is an open fire, excluding a campfire, that burns piled material no larger than two metres high and three metres wide, or grass over an area less than 0.2 hectares (2,000 square metres) in size.
A Category 3 open fire is a fire that burns material in piles larger than two metres high and three metres wide, windrows, or grass larger than 0.2 hectares (2,000 square metres) in size. Category 3 fires also require a burn registration number.
Real-time air quality observations and information regarding the health effects of air pollution can be found online at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/air.
— with files from Max Winkelman