GIVEN current and predicted weather conditions within the Northwest Fire Centre’s jurisdiction, the BC Wildfire Service is encouraging members of the public and industry personnel to exercise caution when doing any outdoor burning.

The Northwest Fire Centre has responded to 24 wildfires since April 1, 20 of which were human caused. Human-caused wildfires are completely preventable and unnecessarily tie up crucial firefighting resources that could be used to deal with naturally occurring wildfires.

As temperatures rise, fine fuels such as tree needles and wood debris become highly flammable, especially in windy conditions. Lightning, low rainfall, and strong and gusty winds are forecast for multiple areas within the Northwest Fire Centre this weekend.

There are currently no open burning prohibitions in place in the Northwest Fire Centre. However, people wishing to light an open fire must watch for changing weather conditions and follow all burning regulations to reduce the number of preventable wildfires.

Local governments might have their own burning restrictions or bylaws in place, so always check with local authorities before lighting any fire of any size.

Campfire safety and fire use precautions:

* Never light a fire or keep it burning in windy conditions. Weather can change quickly and wind may carry embers to other combustible material and start new fires.

* Never leave a fire unattended.

* Campfires must not be larger than 0.5 metres high or 0.5 metres wide.

* Maintain a fireguard around the campfire. This is a fuel-free area where all flammable materials (grass, kindling, etc.) have been removed right down to the mineral soil.

* Keep a shovel or at least eight litres of water available to properly extinguish your campfire. Make sure that the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.

* Anyone who lights a campfire is legally responsible for making sure it does not escape. That person could be held accountable for damages and fire suppression costs if their negligence results in a wildfire.

* Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking materials responsibly, making sure that these materials are completely extinguished.

* Anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike should have a spark arrestor installed on the vehicle. Check the condition of the muffler, regularly clear build-ups of grass or other vegetation from hot spots on the vehicle, stay on dirt paths and avoid tall grass and weeds to reduce wildfire risks.

Anyone planning to do any large-scale industrial burning or conduct a grass burn larger than 0.2 hectares (Category 3 fires) must obtain a burn registration number ahead of time (at no charge) by calling 1 888 797-1717.

Anyone who conducted a Category 2 or Category 3 open burn within the last 12 months should check the burn site to ensure that the fire remains completely extinguished.

Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and / or sentenced to one year in jail.

To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. To report suspicious activities, environmental damage or a natural resource violation, call 1 877 952-RAPP (7277) or *7277 on a cellphone.

The BC Wildfire Service thanks the public for its help in preventing wildfires. For the latest information on fire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit the BC Wildfire Service website:  www.bcwildfire.ca

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