Rain doesn’t wash away fire fears

All the rain recently has brought down the risk of forest fires, but has it, really?

After much prayer to the rain gods, Vancouver Island received a good bath of rain in the last two weeks, allowing fire departments to finally lessen their brow and lower fire conditions —  but does that mean it’s OK to burn piles of stuff again?

Absolutely not.

In fact, fire restrictions, which can go in effect as early as April, can remain in effect until late October even if the weather has been soaking wet.

In other words, regardless that some local fire departments, such as Sooke, Otter Point and Metchosin, changed their fire status from “extreme” to “low” fire restrictions on open burning (outside of camp fires and incinerators) remain in full effect.

In addition, provincial fire restrictions differ from those set by municipal fire departments who have their own unique set of bylaws and fire enforcement.

So naturally, with bylaws being different for each municipality, there’s been some recent confusion in the public on what it can or can’t burn. As a result, Sooke Fire Chief Steven Sorensen noted that fire trucks were dispatched last week to at least a dozen open burning fire complaints.

“You’re still not allowed to burn in September, and always check with your local municipality, because it is different everywhere,” he said.

Even between Sooke and Otter Point the bylaws are not the same, said Otter Point Fire Chief Kevan Brehart, who pointed out that the bylaw for Shirley, Otter Point, East Sooke and Port Renfrew (which is set by the CRD) strictly says that regardless of the weather, there is no open burning.

This was particularly confusing for contractors working this summer’s extreme periods, as the bylaw prohibits the use of machinery such as excavators and chainsaws in Otter Point, but is otherwise allowed in Sooke.

For Otter Point, there is no open burning until Oct. 1, and at that point residents still need permits. At the end of October, you only need a permit for larger piles (over six feet in diameter).If you’re doing a major cleanup, then you need a permit all winter. For a small garden, refuge piles, you only need a permit for shoulder seasons in the fall and spring.

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