Tom Shypitka is asking the Southeast Fire Centre to implement a campfire ban in the region, specifically in areas of increased wildfire risk, and not necessarily a widespread ban.
“What we see time and time again every year is that the whole Fire Centre shouldn’t be treated as one entity,” the Kootenay East MLA told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “We’ve got so many different weather patterns throughout the Southeast Centre that nuances pop up from time to time and my job is to reflect the concerns of the residents, as well as some of the nuances that have occurred.”
Shypitka said those nuances included warmer than projected forecasts, stronger winds than anticipated, and a lack of rain and dry conditions in the South Country.
“With the closure of the Koocanusa Recreation Strategy area, we’re seeing a large displacement of recreators out into the backcountry that we’ve never seen before. This is putting a large strain on our Conservation Officers, our Natural Resource Officers – our enforcement in effect is being hampered by that,” added Shypitka. “These are some of the nuances that I try to put forward to the Southeast Fire Centre, I think they’re warranted that there’s an additional threat this year.”
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According to Shypitka, action needs to be taken immediately by the Southeast Fire Centre to try and prevent further spread of wildfires. As of Wednesday afternoon, 28 wildfires are active across the East Kootenay, West Kootenay, Kootenay Boundary, and Columbia regions.
“I have all of the confidence in the world in the Southeast Fire Centre but I wouldn’t be doing my job or representing the people of this region if I didn’t reflect their concerns and the things that I see that might be overlooked,” said Shypitka. “There’s different ways we can approach being FireSmart and being conscience about the threat of wildfire. All it takes is one accident and it could impact a lot of people. Just be smart out there and take it seriously.”
The Southeast Fire Centre currently has a ban on Category 2 and 3 fires, prohibiting open burning and the use of fireworks, burn barrels, and other similar incendiaries. Campfires are still permitted as long as they remain smaller than 0.5 metres wide by 0.5 metres high.
MORE: Category 2 and 3 fires banned across the Province (April 16, 2020)
Shypitka originally made the push over Facebook on Tuesday, pushing the public to also call for a campfire ban.