The Saanich Fire Department was called to more than 20 fires in rural Saanich since the end of March, despite a province-wide ban on open burning.
A provincial ban on outdoor burning was announced by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy on March 26, explained Mike Simpson, Saanich’s assistant chief of fire prevention. The ban restricted open burning for all high smoke sensitivity zones across the province – including Greater Victoria – until April 15. The ministry’s ban has since been extended to June 15.
The ban was implemented as a result of the ongoing pandemic in an effort to improve air quality and avoid the impacts of wildfire smoke on public health, Simpson explained. However, it seems that some residents in rural Saanich aren’t abiding by the burning ban – likely because they’re unaware, he said.
The Saanich Fire Department responded to some 22 complaints about open burning after the ban went into effect – 10 of those calls were on April 10 alone. Simpson added that residents were respectful and put out their fires but had been unaware of the ban.
Simpson feels this is because under normal circumstances, from the end of October to April 30, residents in rural Saanich are allowed to burn on Fridays and on Saturdays until noon without a permit. However, “in the world we’re living in right now, it’s not allowed,” he said.
The BC Wildfire Service also announced a fire ban on April 7, Simpson explained. Beginning at noon on April 16, a ban on Category 2 and 3 open fires, fireworks, sky lanterns and burn barrels or burn cages of any size or description unless used for a campfire will take effect. According to the Government of B.C. website, the ban includes public and private property and will remain in effect until further notice.
This all means that permit-free burning in rural Saanich will be closed down until at least the end of October when permit-open burning in rural Saanich typically begins, Simpson said. He emphasized that all open burning in Saanich – from backyard burners to yard waste disposal fires – is currently prohibited.