As of Thursday, June 29 a campfire ban will go into effect for the Chilcotin region.
“Campfires will be banned in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Forest District west of the Fraser River and also throughout Itcha Ilgachuz Provincial Park,” Cariboo Fire Centre fire information officer Natasha Broznitsky told the Tribune Tuesday, noting the use of tiki torches and chimineas will also be banned in these areas.
“Anyone who is recreating in the Cariboo region should check to see what bans and restrictions are in place,” Broznitsky said. “And regardless of the BC Wildfire restrictions, they should also check their local municipality’s bans.”
Across the Cariboo Fire Centre the wildfire risks are high to extreme and Broznitsky said BC Wildfire Service is asking anyone who observes smoke to report it to 1-800-663-5555 or on their cell phone call *5555.”
The campfire ban comes as several wildfires are burning in the region.
A wildfire estimated to be 60 hectares in size is burning near Raven Lake.
“Monday’s hot, dry and windy conditions caused an increase in fire behaviour on a prescribed burn being conducted by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations causing it to spread outside of the prescribed burn area,” Broznitsky said.
The fire is not threatening any property or the public, but the CFC is urging the public to avoid using the Alex Graham-Raven Lake Forest Service Road, also known as the 1300 Road at this time, she added.
Presently there are 55 firefighters, three helicopters and heavy equipment on site and containment lines around 100 per cent of the fire’s perimeter were in place as of Tuesday.
“We are still considering it to be out of control, even though we have that containment line, given the fire and the hot, dry and windy weather we are expecting today,” Broznitsky said. “The public is advised that smoke is still visible from the fire.”
Crews are also responding to two fires in the Ghost Lake area, which is located in the northeast corner of the Cariboo Fire Centre, Broznitsky said.
The fires are within four kilometres of each other.
A helicopter is being used on both fires and each fire has three firefighters on site.
“One fire is a spot fire and the other is estimated to be 0.6 ha in size,” Broznitsky said. “The cause of both is still under investigation.”
By Tuesday the wildfire southwest of Lac La Hache had downsized from 36 hectares to 25.9 hectares due to more accurate mapping.
Broznitsky said it was 100 per cent contained and was “being held,” which Broznitsky said means sufficient suppression action has been taken such that the fire is not likely to spread beyond pre-existing boundaries under the prevailing and forecasted conditions.
Meanwhile, a local resident who discovered an unattended campfire at the southwest end of the Chimney Lake on Sunday morning is also urging the public to be more diligent.
Tanya Caldwell lives at Chimney Lake and said she was taking her dogs for a walk when she came upon a burning fire pit at a spot that is popular for parties and squatters.
“It wasn’t huge, but I was very upset,” Caldwell said. “There was a huge mess there of trash from partying, lots of broken glass, but I found a tomato juice bottle and filled it with water several times to put the fire out.”
Ironically, at the same time she was extinguishing the fire, there were water bombers skimming on the lake to retrieve water for fighting a lightning-caused wildfire burning 40 kilometres southwest of Lac La Hache near Emerald Lake that was discovered Friday.
Caldwell has lived at Chimney Lake for six years and described the area as “precious.”
The unofficial campsite is often a mess, she added.
“There are pallets, old chairs, smashed bottles, a tent, an abandoned truck from the squatters, and all the smashed bottles,” she said. “I’ve got compassion and I know people like to party, but it’s very, very dangerous to leave a campfire burning.”
Caldwell said she reported the fire to the RCMP, the fire department and Ministry of Forests, and plans to document everything going forward.