Central Saanich nixes fireworks, postpones Centennial Park Halloween party as drought persists

Central Saanich nixes fireworks, postpones Centennial Park Halloween party as drought persists

A Halloween tradition won’t be going ahead this year in Central Saanich as an unusually long stretch of warm, dry weather poses a massive wildfire risk, officials say.

With the fire danger rating currently listed at the highest rating of “extreme” on the South Island, Central Saanich says it’s suspending the use of fireworks and any open burning, including campfires, “until further notice.”

A district spokesperson said if the region sees significant rainfall and the fire danger rating is lowered, it could mean fireworks will be reinstated before Halloween — but that is unlikely given current forecasts.

READ MORE: Halloween fireworks may be banned due to Island’s extreme dry conditions

It’s not just fireworks that will be put on pause. Central Saanich is also postponing its annual Halloween-night celebration and bonfire in Centennial Park.

Organizers say they’ll make it up to Central Saanich residents by holding the bonfire and fireworks display at a later date, either at the end of this year or early 2022.

“While this is hugely disappointing for the community, the Fire Department intends to reschedule the fireworks and bonfire celebration soon,” Central Saanich Fire Chief Kenn Mount said in a statement.

“The risk to our community is too great, and we ask all citizens to act responsibly, and spread the message about why it’s imperative to adjust celebrations this year.”

The BC Wildfire Service is dealing with a highly unusual problem this October with 52 active wildfires burning in the Coastal Fire Centre as of Oct. 18.

While most of the wildfires are under control or being held, five of them, all located in central and northern Vancouver Island, are classified as out of control.

Of those active fires, 65.4 per cent are suspected to have been caused by lightning strikes, and 21.2 per cent are believed to be human-caused.

The severe dry spell has also played a role in the number of late-season wildfires.

According to daily precipitation data from Environment Canada, Victoria has gone 90 days with less than one millimetre of rain per day. Data from the Victoria International Airport weather station shows 102 consecutive days with less than one millimetre of rain daily.

As of Oct. 13, all of Vancouver Island was listed as having Level 5 drought conditions — the highest rating given by the province — meaning “adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are almost certain.”

The Central Saanich fireworks display at Centennial Park is put on by volunteers from the local fire department, the district says. This was to be the first year that the annual show was going to be renamed after long-time firefighter and assistant fire chief Forrest Owens, who died of cancer earlier this year.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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