Labour Day weekend travel during B.C. wildfire season: What to note about camping, parks, driving, pets, and more

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      If you're heading out into the great outdoors in British Columbia this weekend, there are a number of important things to take note of.

      Of particular concern are the wildfires throughout the province, but there are also issues about driving, being on the water, and more.  

      Here is some information about B.C. travel with links to further resources that can help when planning a long weekend getaway in the province.


      Campfires are banned across the province with the exceptions of the Vancouver Island "fog zone" (which runs along the island's west coast), and the Peace Forest District and Fort Nelson Forest District in the Prince George Fire Centre.

      Anyone caught may be given a violation ticket or $1,150 and may have to pay administrative penalties of up to $10,000. If convicted in court, individuals may face fines of up to $100,000, in addition to the possibility of one year in jail. Anyone caught contributing to a wildfire may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated expenses.

      Anyone who needs to report a wildfire or any fire violations can call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 by cellphone. More information about bans on open burning is available at the B.C. Wildfire Service website.

      There are currently over 500 wildfires burning in B.C., and 53 of them are either highly visible or pose potential danger to the public.

      Extreme caution is urged to prevent any human-caused wildfires from starting. In 2017, 41 percent of wildfires were caused by humans while 57 percent were caused by lightning.

      The B.C. Wildfire Service responded to 2,015 wildfires from April 1 to August 30, and 444 of those fires (or 21 percent) were caused by people.

      This year's wildfire activity, which has reached 1.25 million hectares burnt, has exceeded last year's record amount of 1.21 million hectares burnt.

      On August 29, the B.C. government extended the provincial state of emergency to September 12. 

      B.C. fire danger ratings as of August 31, 2018
      B.C. Wildfire Service

      The fire danger rating is updated every day on a B.C. Wildfire Service webpage.

      Meanwhile, most of northern B.C. and all of Vancouver Island are currently listed as "extremely dry" on the British Columbia Drought Information Portal.

      For current information on wildfire activity, road closures, burning restrictions, and air-quality advisories, call 1-888-3-FOREST or visit the B.C. Wildfire Service website.

      As several hikers have had to be rescued this year due to wildfires, for advice on preparing for trips into the outdoors, visit the AdventureSmart website.

      The Emergency Info B.C. website also offers information about travel and tourism during the wildfire season.

      B.C. active wildfires as of August 31, 2018
      B.C. Wildfire Service


      A number of provincial parks have been closed for safety reasons due to wildfire activity. As circumstances can frequently change, visitors can check on the status of parks online.

      Additional resources are available at B.C. Parks, Discover Camping, and Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. websites.

      Those with pets should note that several provincial parks have bans on dogs and other domestic parks, including Garibaldi, Bowron Lake, Kokanee Glacier, Cathedral, and Joffre Lakes, to protect the environment.

      For a list of provincial parks that are dog-friendly, visit this B.C. Parks webpage.

      B.C. Wildfire Service


      In addition to wildfires and heavy weekend traffic volumes on B.C. roads, drivers can check updated route information at DriveBC's website or Twitter account.

      Due to new legislation effective as of June 1, distracted drivers face higher fines, more penalty points, and potential driving prohibitions for repeat offences.

      Distracted driving is now considered a high-risk driving offence that is equal to excessive speeding.

      More information about distracted driving is available at the ICBC website.

      Buntzen Lake
      JAMESVANCOUVER/Getty Images


      While wildfires have been a paramount issue, water safety is also a summertime concern, as accidental drownings increase starting in May and rise throughout August.

      In 2016, there were 47 accidental drownings, with over one-third taking place in the southern B.C. Interior area.  

      At Buntzen Lake in northeastern Metro Vancouver, for example, a steep drop-off underwater may have contributed to the death of a 47-year-old Burnaby man, who was in the water with family but was unable to swim, on August 14, which followed the drowning of a 19-year-old Surrey male who vanished beneath the water on July 17 while swimming with friends.


      As wildfires and smoke are constantly and sometimes rapidly changing in size or moving, advice on protecting your health is available at this Emergency Info B.C. webpage while the status of air quality across the province can be checked at B.C. Air Quality Health Index website. 


      Litter left behind by travelers and hikers is becoming an increasing problem that impacts the environment, residents, wildlife, ecosystems, and more.

      In one extreme example, two hikers discovered an estimated 40 pounds of trash at Joffre Lakes in June 2017.

      Any waste taken into parks or wilderness should be taken back, rather than left behind or buried (with the exception of human waste), as wildlife may dig it up.