The Province of British Columbia is cautioning residents to be extremely cautious over the B.C. Day long weekend due to an ongoing heat wave, dry conditions and heightened wildfire risk.
The August long weekend is considered to be one of the busiest of the year when it comes to people travelling and, with COVID-19 restrictions having eased, the provincial government says it is anticipating high volumes of movement throughout the province.
In anticipation of a busy travel weekend, the government has issued a series of tips for residents to help them stay safe over the long weekend.
First, the government is reminding British Columbians that Category 2 and Category 3 open fires are prohibited throughout the province, while campfire bans are in effect for most areas except Northwest Fire Centre, Haida Gwaii and most of the Prince George Fire Centre.
Due to multiple significant wildfires burning in B.C., the Province recommends anyone who is intending to travel should first check for road closures, evacuation alerts, evacuation orders and other prohibitions, such as BC Parks closures and people should not travel to areas that are subject to evacuation alerts or evacuation orders.
The government emphasizes that despite the fire danger rating being “low” or “very low” in some parts of the province, people must still exercise extreme caution to ensure their activities do not spark a new fire as many of the forests and grassland areas remain very dry due to heat and little rainfall in recent weeks.
“The BC Wildfire Service is using all its available resources to fight existing fires. More than 1,250 wildfires have burned more than 456,000 hectares in British Columbia since April 1, 2021, and people have caused about 34% of those fires,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“Human-caused fires are completely preventable and unnecessarily increase the workload of BC Wildfire Service crews.”
A list of FireSmart tips for property owners that help minimize the risk of starting a fire in these dry conditions has been compiled and posted online.
“Emergency personnel, firefighters, first responders and many others are working tirelessly throughout the province to help keep everyone safe,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “It’s important for them to know that we’re all behind them and supporting the extremely important work that they do.”
In addition to the extreme wildfire risks that the province currently faces, certain areas of British Columbia are also experiencing another heat wave over the long weekend.
Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement regarding the heat, saying that temperatures will reach the mid-20s near the water and range into the low to mid-30s inland — approximately five degrees Celsius higher than seasonal averages.
The highest temperatures are expected to be in the Whistler region and over inland Vancouver Island.
Amid the high heat conditions, Environment Canada is highlighting that residents should watch for the effects of heat illness: swelling, rash, cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and the worsening of some health conditions.
Additionally, the government says in order to beat the heat and stay safe, British Columbians should consider the following tips:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink extra water even before you feel thirsty and if you are active on a hot day. Ask your healthcare provider about how much water you should drink on hot days if you are on water pills or limiting your fluid intake.
- Keep cool. Stay indoors in air-conditioned buildings or take a cool bath or shower. At temperatures above 30 C, fans alone may not be able to prevent heat-related illness. Sunscreen will protect against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, but not from the heat.
- Plan activity before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., when the sun’s UV radiation is the weakest.
- Avoid tiring work or exercise in hot, humid environments. If you must work or exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Rest breaks are important and should be taken in the shade.
- Avoid sunburn. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm, and reapply often.
- Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade.
- Never leave children alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52 C within 20 minutes inside a vehicle when the outside temperature is 34 C. Leaving the car windows slightly open will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.
- Regularly check older adults, children and others for signs of heat-related illness, and make sure they are keeping cool and drinking plenty of fluids. Check on those who are unable to leave their homes and people with emotional or mental health challenges whose judgment may be impaired.
- Heat also affects pets. Never leave a pet in a parked car. Limit pets’ exercise, and be sure to provide them with plenty of water and shade.
The government is also directing travellers to the Destination BC’s Know Before You Go web page as a one-stop-shop for visitors looking to access key information resources, including DriveBC, the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC.
To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.
The government is reminding British Columbians ahead of the long weekend as well that anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, may be required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, may be fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail.