(Black Press Media file photo)

(Black Press Media file photo)

Beach fires return to Tofino and Ucluelet

Fire chief Brent Baker heralds best summer for local beaches

Marshmallows and hot dogs are back on the menu at local beaches as the coastal fire ban has been lifted.

Enough rain fell throughout Vancouver Island for the BC Wildfire Service to officially rescind its open burning prohibition on Sept. 16, meaning the beach fires that have been banned since June 23 are legal once again.

In Ucluelet, beach fires are permitted as long as they are at least three metres away from combustible materials, located below the hide tide mark, and are completely extinguished by 10 p.m.. The use of accelerants to light a fire is prohibited as is the burning of noxious, explosive or toxic materials and anyone having a beach fire must have a bucket with at least eight litres of water on hand.

In Tofino, the district approved a new fire appliance mandate in May and fire chief Brent Baker said the new restrictions were going well before the ban came about a month later.

“We had some really great compliance. There’s always some exceptions, but it comes down to having good information,” he said. “We have to pretty quickly get the ‘fire ban’ signs down and the ‘beach responsibly’ signs up there which have all the new regulations on them.”

He said he was happy to see visitors and residents respecting the fire ban all summer.

“I would say it was very effective for the most part. People followed the restrictions really well, I was really happy with that,” he said. “I would really like to thank everybody for all of their support and for following the regulations. For many, I’m sure it was a really challenging time. For the businesses that supported it, which meant a change from their normal operations, their support was greatly appreciated by the fire department, the bylaw department, and public works I’m sure with the reduced garbage. It made a huge difference and we have much appreciation.”

He added the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department received “a lot of calls about fires” over the summer, but most were confirmed to be propane fires, which were exempt from the ban.

“Especially during a fire ban, people are concerned of the fire hazard so they tend to call 911,” he said. “Once the sun goes down, if the propane fire was still going people would see flames and call it in…Nine times out of 10, it was a propane fire pit.”

He added the district’s bylaw staff was working into the evenings and was able to respond to reports, taking significant strain off of the local volunteer firefighters who would otherwise have been called out.

“We work very closely with the bylaw department and they were a really great support to us this season,” he said.

With beach fires now back, Baker said he is confident residents and visitors will abide by the fire appliance mandate, though he added the ban led many to beam about the state of local beaches this summer.

“Most other places have gone to a complete fire ban. It is very rare to find a place where you can have a fire on the beach for all sorts of reasons, whether its fire hazard or the air quality, that’s the biggest driving factor these days. Then the third part of that is wanting to reduce all the things that come along with beach fires,” he said.

“The thing that many people commented to me about this summer, both visitors who have been coming here for years as well as residents, was that they had never seen the beaches look this clean, free of garbage, less drinking on the beach, all those things that tend to come along with sitting around having a beach fire, it was a completely different scene on the beaches this summer…Understandably, not everyone will share that opinion, but I spoke with people who lived on the beach and people that have been coming here for 20 years and they were really expressing that they found things really clean. It was a really enjoyable atmosphere to be on the beach and it just felt very different from previous years.”


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