VICTORIA (CP) — The summer camping season opened Friday in British Columbia with a warning from the Forests Ministry about preventing forest fires.
The May long weekend is usually when British Columbians dust off their tents and sleeping bags and make their first forays into the great outdoors.
“One of the messages I’d like to get out is this is our first long weekend and people should go out and enjoy the forest,” said Jim Price, B.C. fire operations superintendent. “But it’s a good time to set some good habits with their campfires.”
Build campfires in areas where there are few combustible materials and ensure your fire is out when breaking camp, he said.
“A good way of doing that is sticking your hand into the ashes and seeing that it’s cold,” Price said. “What we’d like people to do is prevent those people-caused fires.”
Lightning strikes spark many forest fires in British Columbia, especially during the drier summer months, he said. Lightning-caused fires are impossible to prevent, but campers and smokers must be vigilant in keeping forest fires to a minimum, Price said.
There have been 184 forest fires reported so far this year. The fires have burned 767 hectares and cost $2.89 million to fight.
Price said the Forests Ministry is preparing for an average forest fire season this summer, but there are plans in place to increase suppression capacity should the fire season get hot.
Last year was recorded as an above average forest fire year, with about 2,300 fires, costing $160 million to fight.
The average in British Columbia is about 2,000 fires in a season, Price said.
In 2003, much of B.C.’s Interior region was engulfed by wildfires.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed as flames ravaged suburban neighbourhoods in Kelowna and hundreds of sawmill workers in the Barriere area north of Kamloops lost their jobs when a forest fire destroyed a sawmill at Louis Creek.