Port Clements exploring fire-ban bylaw

Council tabled the first draft for its Aug. 6 regular meeting

Port Clements’ fire chief may soon have power to issue and enforce fire bans within municipal boundaries.

Village staff have heard several concerns from residents about the growing threat of wildfires and told council that provincial bans and regulations might not be reflective of fire threats on island.

Mayor Doug Daugert asked staff to draft a bylaw common in other B.C. municipalities that gives the fire chief authority to restrict fire activity within municipal boundaries.

Staff presented the first draft of that bylaw July 15 but council tabled it until the next regular meeting on Aug. 6.

READ MORE: Should BC already be implementing province-wide fire bans?

In its current draft, The Village of Port Clements Outdoors Fire Ban Bylaw No. 452 allows the fire chief to issue burning bans that supersede provincial bans. Like the province, the bans will cover three categories of fires ranging in size from 0.5 meters to 3 metres and above.

Anyone caught defying a ban will be subject to fines also following the provincial scale.

B.C.’s law allows for penalties of up to $1,150 for anyone contravening a fire prohibition. If it results in a wildfire the person responsible can be fined between $100,000 and $1 million and be subject to a one-year jail sentence.

“This bylaw will hopefully deter dangerous behaviour while also communicating that this is a priority for the village staff, council and the fire chief,” reads a staff report to council. “As an indirect impact, it may also educate residents on the implications of wildfires and how they can be prevented.”

READ MORE: Backyard burning still prohibited on Haida Gwaii, fire chief warns

Due to limited resources in the village, the bylaw will allow council to elect a secondary representative from the municipality to enforce bans and levy fines when the fire chief is unavailable.

“It is believed that preventing wildfires is beneficial for the community, and the safety risk should be enough of a deterrent,” the report reads.

Staff also recommended a fire-ban report line be established so calls do not to interfere with emergencies.

“The main idea behind this bylaw is to give the authority when we need to use it, but not over-police the citizens. With the threat of wildfires increasing with each dry season, it is assumed that most citizens will want to uphold this bylaw in order to protect themselves and the village as a whole.”

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