With more than 300 fires burning across British Columbia, calls for backcountry closures are heard more and more. Many people are asking why the province hasn’t closed the backcountry.
It turns out that decision isn’t one that is made at the provincial level.
The decision to limit access to land is actually made by the BC Wildfire Service through their regional fire centres.
Although the term “backcountry closure” is something that is commonly used, it is not really how things work.
“In the Southeast Fire Centre, we do not close the whole back country, necessarily,” explains SEFC information officer Kim Wright. “What we can do is prohibit access to Crown land, in what we call an area restriction.”
Multiple factors are taken into consideration before implementing area restrictions such as public and responder safety, current and forecast weather conditions, anticipated fire behaviour, access routes, the number of active fires and the fire danger rating.
Wright also says that since the campfire ban was implemented on June 30, there have not been any fires caused by back country recreation use in the Southeast Fire Centre. However, there has been a number of lightning-caused fires discovered and reported by people recreating on Crown land.
“The public has an important role to play when it comes to reporting new wildfires in the backcountry, by restricting access we actually lose a valuable early detection resource,” says Wright.
When an area restriction is in place, unless you are an official or part of a fire suppression team, you are not allowed in the area except to travel to or from your residence or to use a highway.
Breaking the rules can result in a $1150 ticket.
The SEFC ordered two area restrictions on July 14 around the Akokli Creek and Redding Creek fires near Boswell on the east side of Kootenay Lake.