A small community in central B.C. has been the first municipality across the province to ban all forms of open fires as an extreme heat wave is expected to take hold over the weekend.
With the town's temperature forecast to exceed 40 C next week and an expected humidity of around 40 per cent, the District of Barriere announced a complete ban on fires on Wednesday — including campfires and open and controlled burning.
According to the B.C. government, Category 2 and 3 open fires — defined as two or more piles burning simultaneously and not exceeding two metres in height and three metres in width — have already been prohibited in Kamloops, the Cariboo and the southeastern and coastal regions this month.
The current wildfire danger ratings show most of the province at a "moderate" or "high" risk — with some pockets across B.C.'s Interior indicating extreme fire risks.
Barriere Fire Chief Ashley Wohlgemuth says she wants local residents to remain vigilant — given the devastation caused to the 1,700 person community by the McLure wildfire in the summer of 2003, a fire that burned for 75 days and blazed through 26,420 hectares, destroying 75 homes.
"We just feel the need here with us … just being proactive, as our community has seen large fires before and some are still a little apprehensive about it," she said Thursday to Doug Herbert, the guest host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.
Wohlgemuth says local residents are allowed to use a propane ring to light a little fire in the backyard, but they shouldn't burn any wood in an open area.
"There are signs that can be given throughout the District of Barriere quite often the first day, so we do like to make sure we go and use it more as an education piece, but we can give out fines for people who have fires once the ban is on," she warned.
In an emailed statement, the B.C Wildfire Service says the Kamloops Fire Centre — whose jurisdiction covers Barriere — has determined there's not yet an imminent danger to warrant a campfire ban.
The agency says nearly 300 wildfires have been sparked across the province since April 1, which is higher than normal. It also says if the conditions remain the same, southern B.C. can expect an above-average fire season.