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Carelessness sparks seven local wildfires this month

Be vigilant when lighting open fires: that's the warning from the Southeast Fire Centre after a spate of early-season wildfires in the East Kootenay.

Since April 1, there have been seven wildfires in the region, all of them human caused and resulting from poorly planned open burning, the Fire Centre said in an April 24 news release.

The most serious incident was an out-of-control grass burn on April 10 in the Elko/Grasmere area that grew to 18.3 hectares. It took 20 personnel from the Wildfire Management Branch to extinguish the fire.

The Fire Centre said that although clearing and burning in the spring can reduce wildfire risks later in the season, any open burning must be done safely. Before carrying out any burns, follow these steps:

• Ensure that enough people, water and tools are on hand to control the fire and prevent it from escaping.

• Do not burn during windy conditions. Weather conditions can change quickly and the wind may carry embers to other combustible material and start new fires.

• Create a fireguard at least one metre around the planned fire site by clearing away twigs, grass, leaves and other combustible material.

• Never leave a fire unattended. Make sure that your fire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cold to the touch before you leave the area.

Before conducting any burn, also check with your local fire department, municipality and regional district to see if any open burning restrictions or bylaws are in effect.

If you are planning to do any large-scale industrial burning or conduct a grass burn over 0.2 hectares (Category 3 fires), you must obtain a burn registration number ahead of time by

calling 1 888 797-1717.

Always check the venting conditions before conducting an open burn. The venting index can be found online at: http://www.bcairquality.ca/readings/ventilation-index.html.

In British Columbia, the Wildfire Act specifies a person's legal obligations when using fire in or within one kilometre of forest land or grassland. If an outdoor burn escapes and causes a wildfire, the person responsible may be held accountable for damages and fire suppression costs.

If you see flames or smoke, please call 1-800-663-5555 toll free or dial *5555 on a cellphone to report it.

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