Campfires prohibited on Gabriola - cooking fires allowed

Sounder News

Wednesday, May 13 2020

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in collaboration with provincial public health partners is continuing open burning restrictions for all High Smoke Sensitivity Zones - which includes Gabriola Island - across the province until Monday, June 15, 2020. 

Pursuant to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation, no new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires. 

While these Ministry restrictions do not apply to campfires - local governments such as the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District still have jurisdiction to have their own restrictions in place.

Gabriola Fire Chief Will Sprogis said for Gabriola, “we’re not going to allow campfires, just going to allow the cooking fires.”

Sprogis said a cooking fire can be an outdoors fire measuring 12 inches by 12 inches, burning for two hours only, then extinguished. Wood stoves used indoors for heating and cooking may also be used, if properly installed. He said given the current COVID-19 situation, the Gabriola Fire Department is still maintaining a platoon system for responses - and to keep responding to smoke complaints would put an undue stress on members who are already working hard.

“And, it’s going to start drying up soon, we might even remove the cooking fire [allowance] in a couple weeks. We’ll allow that for May Long Weekend, then we’ll see.”

Gabriola’s restrictions line up with the restrictions in place for the rest of the RDN.

Ministry restrictions on larger fires are directly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect pollutants have on viral respiratory infections.

As cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in BC continue to increase, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) recommends implementing measures that help reduce excess air pollution in populated airsheds across the province. 

There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function.

This means that:

Deterioration in air quality may lead to more COVID-19 infections overall,

 Deterioration in air quality may lead to more cases of severe COVID-19 infections, adding further demand on our healthcare system, and  Improvements to air quality may help to protect the whole population from COVID-19 and its potentially severe effects.

Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning. At this time, the BCCDC recommends that open burning of biomass fuels be restricted in areas with high or moderate risk of population exposure to the resulting smoke.

While the focus should remain on physical distancing from others to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the number of cases, keeping our air as clean as possible will also help to protect the population during this difficult period. 

These restrictions will be evaluated daily; the areas in which they apply may grow or diminish accordingly.