Tofino considering a year-round fire ban on all beaches

WatchTofino is considering a year-round fire ban on all beaches after bylaw officers struggle to supervise the large spike in fires this year.

The sound of crackling firewood is something the District of Tofino knows well on its sandy beaches, but  the idea of a year-round beach fire ban was brought forward in this week’s council meeting.

“I think it just reached a limit where the solutions we put in place before aren’t working and something needs to change,” said councillor Britt Chalmers.

“While this may be the most drastic measure, it’s a good start in the communication and part of the process which is messy.”

She says even she would be sad to see beach fires go, and many other councillors have said the same, but the problem is getting too large to ignore.

Currently, Cox Bay and Tonquin Beach in Tofino do not allow beach fires, but now the small west island town is considering extending the restrictions to ban bonfires on Mackenzie Beach and Chesterman Beach as well.

Every year, the city receives letters about the issues that come along with beach fires, like the garbage left behind, improper care of the site, and excess of smoke, but this year, the complaints were off the charts.

“Tofino was ill-prepared for the huge wave of visitors we had this summer,” said resident Ryan Orr. “Our bylaw [officers] were quite undermanned and they weren’t doing the beach patrols that they were doing in the past, and I think that allowed the beach fire situation to get worse than it ever has in previous years.”

READ MORE: Tofino residents concerned about environmental impact as more tourists travel to area

And although he admits there are many issues with beach fires, like increasing the tendency for large gatherings, he doesn’t think a ban is a solution.

“If there are no beach fires in Tofino, I think that will definitely push fires into backyards, push the fires into the forest, and push the fires into places they shouldn’t be otherwise, so I believe keeping them on the beach is the way to keep them in the open and supervised,” said Orr.

He says there needs to be heavier bylaw enforcement to help control the beach fires, but more patrols mean more money needed from the district.

“We don’t have the resources at the moment,” said Chalmers. “That would involve potentially increased property taxes to be able to pay for more bylaw, and this is where community engagement is so important. If residents don’t want a ban, we need other solutions.”

Tofino launched a survey to hear from residents about what they think of an overall ban and asking for any suggestions. The survey is available until Oct. 8 and council is set to discuss the results on Oct. 13.

Orr has started a petition against the ban here.


Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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