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Tofino firefighters respond to two cigarette-caused fires

Dry conditions axe campfires and led to two separate cigarette-caused fires on Island’s west coast

Dry conditions have put a kibosh on campfires and recently led to two separate cigarette-caused fires in Tofino.

The Coastal Fire Centre announced an Island-wide campfire ban on Aug. 4.

Tofino fire chief and manager of protective services Brent Baker told the Westerly News on Friday that the ban includes the district’s mandated wood burning beach fire appliances, though propane pits are permitted.

“No burning of wood of any sort right now,” Baker said. “There are limited resources and any type of fire can get out of hand fairly easily. Our goal as a community is to reduce the possibilities of any negative effects of fires. It’s a numbers game, reduce the chances and reduce the strain on resources. We don’t want to draw resources away from what’s going on in the interior and other parts of the Island.”

He noted the ban was announced after a wet day on the West Coast, creating some local frustration about its validity, but added that dry conditions led to two fires caused by irresponsibly discarded cigarette butts in Tofino the week prior.

“The challenging thing for people is when we get all the fog in the morning and the grass feels wet and we had rain 24 hours prior to the fire ban starting, that’s a hard thing for people to grasp that there is a concern,” he said.

“However last week the Fire Department did respond to two fires in garden beds that were started from careless disposal of cigarettes. Those types of fires can happen really easily and they will often smoulder for hours before anyone notices them and, by the time somebody notices, they’ve become a much bigger issue than they initially were.”

He noted one of the fires occurred outside a local restaurant directly below one of Surfrider Pacific Rim’s cigarette butt canisters.

“The means for somebody to put it out properly was right there and they threw it in the garden instead,” he said. “There’s definitely consequences that people don’t think of at all.”

Aside from the cigarette butt situations, Baker said he’s been heartened to see locals and visitors respecting local laws around fires at local beaches.

Baker said he’s been heartened to see locals and visitors respecting local laws around beach fires.

“We have an increased level of compliance over previous years. We’ve been very happy with how things have been progressing and the participation of both visitors and residents has been greatly appreciated,” he said. “We really appreciate the people who are complying with the campfire and beach fire rules and sharing the information with friends or other people that they see. We just need to get the message out there and the more people who talk about it, the better off we all are so thank you very much to those who are participating and sharing information.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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