Tofino is considering banning beach fires on local beaches. (Westerly file photo)

Tofino considers beach fire ban after tumultuous summer

“It’s a juggling act, constantly.”

A beach fire ban is one of the options being considered after a tumultuous summer for Tofino’s bylaw enforcement department, though the district’s manager of protective services expects some opposition to that idea.

“Contrary to what you might read in social media right now, there is a lot of people that really take the position that we should be able to have beach fires. Anytime [a ban] gets brought up, there is always an opposition group. We need to look at all options and see what makes the most sense, what can be managed, what can be resourced and move forward from there,” Brent Baker, who also serves as Tofino’s fire chief, told the Westerly News.

He said the amount of beach fires “was consistent, or maybe even slightly less than previous years,” but they were more spread out, making them more difficult to manage.

Beach fires are permitted at MacKenzie Beach and Chesterman Beach from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and are prohibited at all other beaches in Tofino. There is currently no regulation around how many fires either beach can host during those permitted time slots.

READ MORE: Beach fire ban debate reignited in Tofino

Baker said MacKenzie traditionally accounts for roughly 90 per cent of summertime beach fires but, this year, residents and tourists chose Chesterman and Cox Bay, where fires aren’t permitted, at a higher clip.

“There were more people and more fires down on Cox Beach, which was a lot more challenging,” Baker said. “It takes an awful lot of time to engage with everybody that is involved in these activities and it’s not just about fires, it’s about the alcohol and the garbage that tends to come along with the fires. This year was more challenging as far as enforcement because we had far more terrain that we had to cover and more challenging resources.”

He added that signage laying out fire restrictions at Cox Bay has, in the past, been enough to dissuade both residents and visitors from setting up beach fires there and added that he has worked with local resorts to ensure proper education is being delivered to guests.

READ MORE: Tofino hopes to extinguish illegal beach fires

“I think we can all appreciate that when we arrive on vacation, we’re looking forward to the vacation part of it. We’re not necessarily focused on the welcome speech that we may get and we don’t always take in all the information that we get at arrival time. I do feel that the resorts are making an excellent effort at doing what they can,” he said.

He said his department tries to have at least two bylaw enforcement officers on patrol every evening and those officers have been supplemented by an RCMP reservist, but the reservist program was cancelled this year as part of the district’s budget cuts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At times, it’s been one bylaw officer in the evening and one during the day, which can be very challenging,” he said.

READ MORE: District of Tofino slashes spending and taxation due to COVID-19

He said bylaw officers patrol the beaches in the early-evening for an educational shift where they inform groups having fires about the local laws.

“Nobody that’s having a fire doesn’t get spoken to,” he said. “If somebody is having a fire and they are not prepared, if they don’t have the water resources to put it out, then the bylaw officers stay with them until they make those arrangements. That is very clear: no bucket, no fire. It takes several hours to get through all the beaches just educating people.”

He said a later patrol is done at 11 p.m. to ensure fires have been put out.

“It’s very time consuming and, unfortunately, when you’re dealing with that, you can’t necessarily be dealing with other issues at the same time,” he said.

He suggested that 11 p.m. is also when the bylaw department usually begins receiving calls about illegal campers parked on roadways, an issue that became so prevalent this summer that it sparked a petition demanding more bylaw enforcement.

“When the bylaw officers are out patrolling for beach fires, they need to be able to focus on that and, once they complete that, then they can start making the rounds for vehicle-camping. When people abandon their fires and don’t extinguish them, that ends up falling on the bylaw officers as well, so that can take longer, which pushes back being able to deal with those other issues,” he said. “It’s a juggling act, constantly. There are always multiple things that are trying to be accomplished at the same time. It takes time and patience.”

READ MORE: Tofino residents pumped up by perceived lack of bylaw enforcement

The district has considered beach fire bans in the past and has also mulled over a possible firepit program that would limit the amount of fires allowed at each beach. Baker said those options remain on the table as the district works to improve its enforcement next summer.

“Even if you ban beach fires, there is still a management issue. Fires are banned on Cox Beach, but we still have fires there. It’s not like the problem is just going to go away, we’re still going to need resources to manage those issues. We’re going to look at all options over the next little bit and see what makes the most sense and proceed from there,” he said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation says more resources needed to keep Tribal Parks open during pandemic

READ MORE: Tofino mayor condemns vandalism against tourists, says bylaw staff also being targeted

READ MORE: Tourist claims Tofino’s beaches have ‘gone to the dogs’

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Voters in Saanich North and the Islands, here lining up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on the first day of advanced voting, are among the provincial leaders in getting in their votes early, with some 20 per cent (10,174) of eligible voters have already cast their ballots. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

Jacinthe Amyot and James Herbert smile behind their masks outside Ucluelet’s advanced polling station where Amyot cast her provincial election ballot on Sunday. Herbert had chosen to cast his ballot by mail. The province’s general voting day will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ucluelet Community Centre—500 Matterson Drive—and Tofino Community Hall—351 Arnet Road. (Andrew Bailey photo)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote in Tofino-Ucluelet

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

Ucluelet First Nation president Chuck McCarthy, right, stands with Ucluelet’s mayor and council during the Oct. 13 flag raising ceremony. (Submitted photo)
Council chambers host Ucluelet First Nation flag raising ceremony

District of Ucluelet and Yuułuʔiłʔath Government look towards moving forward collectively

The School District 70 administration office in Port Alberni. AV NEWS FILE PHOTO
School District 70 gets a new name

Name change reflects district’s West Coast roots

Tofino welcome sign. (Westerly file photo)
Housing proposal highlights capacity concerns in Tofino

Water supply, school and hospital all cited as council urges caution in growth.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read