Officials with the Southeast Fire Centre are warning the public to be vigilant with open burning and campfires as the summer and warmer temperatures approach.

Officials with the Southeast Fire Centre are warning the public to be vigilant with open burning and campfires as the summer and warmer temperatures approach.

Officials caution wildfire dangers

As summer approaches, conditions will dry up and fire danger ratings will increase.

With a few blazes burning in the interior of the province, wildfire season has officially arrived, however, things are still relatively quiet in the Southeast Fire Centre.

Right now, there are only two wildfires of note in the interior; a five-hectare event near Vernon that was reported on Tuesday and a 15-hectare blaze just north of Valmount reported on the same day.

But the Cranbrook area and surrounding region hasn’t seen much activity, said Carlee Kachman, a fire information officer with the Southeast Fire Centre.

“The current wildfire situation is that there are five incidences in the Southeast Fire Centre that burned a total of one hectare to date this year,” Kachman said. “Whereas on this day last year, we had 27 incidences and 88 hectares were burned.

“So it’s been a much slower start to the season.”

Going back to 2015, there were 39 fires that only burned 55 hectares at this date in the wildfire season.

But despite the slow start to the season, there are still fire dangers, Kachman said, as warmer temperatures that are forecasted over the next few days will create drying conditions.

“Grasses and things like that will be easily ignitable, so we are asking that the public be vigilant when conducting campfires, or if they are conducting any backyard burning to be mindful of the current conditions,” Kachman said.

“There are no bans or restrictions currently in place in the Southeast Fire Centre, however, any time the public is using fire, they have to be extremely diligent with that use, because they are responsible if that fire escapes.”

As dried grasses get exposed from the winter snow cover, there is a higher danger of wildfires, she added.

“We did have an incident go a holdover fire in the Nakusp area, which means somebody was burning in the winter when there was snow or last fall and it burned really hot and it burned into the ground,” Kachman said. “As it melts, those fires become uncovered and can ignite again and that was one of the things that had already happened this year.”

Anyone wishing to do any open burning or lighting a campfire should keep in mind:

• Ensure that enough people, water and tools are on hand to control the fire and prevent it from escaping.

• Do not burn during windy conditions. Weather conditions can change quickly and the wind may carry embers to other combustible material and start new fires.

• Create a fireguard at least one metre around the planned fire site by clearing away twigs, grass, leaves and other combustible material.

• If you are planning a large burn, consider conducting smaller burns around the perimeter beforehand to create a fuel break and help prevent the fire from spreading beyond its intended size. • • Each of these fires should be kept small and must be completely extinguished before starting a new fire.

• Never leave a fire unattended.

• Make sure that your fire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cold to touch before you leave the area for any length of time.

“I really do want to stress that for the weekend, because it is going to be really nice and sunny — especially for the Cranbrook zone — that when people are going out for campfires and that sort of thing, that everyone be very mindful of their fires,” Kachman said.