A provincial ban announced Thursday means no more outdoor burnings on Saanich Peninsula. (Black Press Media File)

Provincial ban on outdoor burning affects all of Greater Victoria

Several south Island municipalities had already taken measures to stop outdoor burns

A provincial ban on outdoor burning announced Thursday impacts all of Greater Victoria, including North Saanich which had already joined several Greater Victoria municipalities in restricting outdoor burning until further notice because of COVID-19.

The ministry of environment and climate change strategy in collaboration with provincial public health partners announced Thursday open burning restrictions for all high smoke sensitivity zones across the province until Wednesday, April 15. “No new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires,” it read. A map attached to the announcement shows the ban in effect across Greater Victoria.

RELATED: Increased coronavirus cases spark B.C.-wide burning restrictions

Hours earlier, North Saanich had asked all holders of outdoor burning permits to avoid their use unless absolutely necessary. North Saanich’s burning opened on Nov. 7, 2019 and is scheduled to close May 9.

Fire Chief John Trelford said North Saanich’s first request (now rendered academic by the full ban) reflects health reasons. “We don’t want the fine particles in the area to make it [COVID-19] any worse,” he said.

Central Saanich Tuesday had also prohibited open air burning until further notice, also citing health reasons.

“In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic and respiratory illness, the Central Saanich Fire Department is asking residents, including those with open air burning permits, to stop all forms of burning until further notice,” read a tweet from Central Saanich.

In Central Saanich, the burning season opened on Oct. 16, 2019 and is scheduled to close May 15.

On the West Shore, Langford also suspended spring open burning including any permits already been issued, according to the City of Langford website.

A staff report from Langford Fire Rescue said spring burning is typically allowed from March 15 to April 15 every year to regulate burning, prevent and suppress fires. However, the report says “the current burn period poses a challenge for residents with respiratory issues and being exposed to the smoke from open fires.”

The report says six complaints from residents regarding smoke from open fires and health concerns were filed in the first four days of the burn period this year.

The number of complaints is not typical for the entire burn period, the report says. Concern about the amount of time bylaw the fire department have to manage open burning, deal with complaints and manage the permit system is also there, according to the report.

“With the quickly changing developments of the pandemic as well as restriction of staff to essential services to ensure delivery of emergency response, time is better spent on responding to the pandemic rather than maintaining the open burning policy,” the report says.

Before Thursday’s provincial announcement, Metchosin, had not yet banned burning to allow for yard clean.

A Facebook post from the Metchosin Fire Department said that since many residents are sheltering at home, it is recommended to “[use] common sense” and “burn sensibly.”

“Please be considerate of your neighbours and be mindful of, and minimize, smoke by ensuring debris is dry, shorten burning periods and move piles as far away from property lines as possible,” it read.

Saanich Fire Department took to Twitter Friday to alert residents to the Ministry of Environment restrictions on open burning across the province due to COVID-19.

The ban also appears to impact small campfires.

RELATED: Fall may mean outdoor burning for some on the West Shore

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