Burn restrictions expanded

BC Hydro says its burn program for Site C is expected to finish today, one day before expanded restrictions go into force throughout B.C.

Effective at noon on April 16, most open burning activities will be prohibited, although campfires will still be allowed.

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Restrictions will remain in place until June 15 to reduce the likelihood of human-caused wildfires. No new fires can be started and no additional material may be added to existing fires, with the exception of campfires.

The restrictions are also extended for high sensitivity smoke zones, as the BC Centre for Disease Control says air pollution can increase the likelihood of respiratory viral infections, including COVID-19.

Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Hudson's Hope, and Chetwynd are deemed to be high smoke sensitivity zones.

"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," the Ministry of Environment said. "There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function."

BC Hydro continues to clear the Peace River valley for the future Site C reservoir and Highway 29 realignment. The company said Tuesday 10 piles of debris were planned to be ignited. Spokesman Dave Conway said he expected the burns to be concluded by Wednesday.

Residents are advised to check with their municipalitiy for any other fire restrictions.

Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

The Prince George Fire Centre extends from Yukon and the Northwest Territories in the north to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, the Cottonwood River and Robson Valley in the south, and from the Alberta border in the east to the Skeena Mountains in the west.

To report a wildfire or open burning violation, call 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca.

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