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Recent Grass Fires Prompt BX-Swan Lake to Issue Reminder on Rules for Safe Open Burning

Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The BX-Swan Lake Fire Department responded to multiple grass fires in the last week, prompting the Department to issue a reminder of the rules in place for open burning. Open burning is allowed with a valid permit within Electoral Areas B and C's fire protection areas from October 31 to April 30. Regulations must be strictly followed to keep people safe and to diminish the threat of the fire spreading.

"The grass in our area is dry right now. Open-air fires must be supervised at all times until the fire is extinguished. Do not turn your back, even for a moment, as the wind can pick-up suddenly and cause the fire to spread," said Bill Wacey, Fire Chief, BX-Swan Lake Fire Rescue.

The Department reminds people to use this checklist before burning:

  • Check that your permit is valid and that there are no fire bans or restrictions
  • Ensure that your burn pile is less than 2 metres high, 3 metres wide, and more than 10 metres away from anything, like structures, trees, and vegetation.
  • Build your pile out of stumps, trunks, branches, and prunings that have dried for a minimum of 180 days. All material must be from the property and be a result of thinning and pruning to reduce wildfire fuels. Compostable materials like leaves and weeds are prohibited.
  • Have a competent supervisor on-site at all times with water and extinguishing equipment.
  • Make sure the venting index is 55 (GOOD) or higher. The venting index is updated each morning and afternoon, so use the most up-to-date information.

"We repeatedly respond to calls where burning is happening while the venting index is lower than 55, which is prohibited by law. Do not assume that since it's a clear sunny day that the venting index allows for burning. The day's weather is not a good indicator of the venting," said Wacey.

The venting index is a smoke control forecast based on whether the current atmospheric turbulence and low wind conditions support the quick dispersal of smoke. Good venting days keep the smoke off of the ground and out of your neighbours' homes.

Open burning is an effective FireSmart action that can reduce a wildfire's impact by burning fuels in a controlled setting. Another option is taking accepted yard and garden waste to the Greater Vernon Diversion and Disposal Facility. Fines for not complying with RDNO Bylaw No. 2514 can range from $50 to $2,000.