By Jennifer Smith
Despite all the education and signage around a ban that has been in place for 50 days now, people continue to break the law when it comes to campfires.
The campfire ban has been in place throughout the region since July 3, yet conservation officers issued 13 tickets so far in August alone and received 42 complaints of campfires.
“There is zero tolerance now,” said Sgt. Josh Lockwood, conservation officer who covers Kelowna to Seymour Arm and to the Nakusp ferry.
“We are just asking people to be vigilant and abide by the regulations, they are there for a purpose.”
With fires burning throughout the province this summer, it’s not likely the ban will be lifted anytime soon.
But people still aren’t getting the message.
In fact two tickets were issued Tuesday evening in the Aberdeen plateau, right after a Global Okanagan newscast on the fact that people continue to flout the ban.
And ignorance is no excuse, says Lockwood.
“It’s on every highway sign as you come into the province, you can’t travel a back road without seeing a sign and lots of communities have done their own (signs).”
One of the recent tickets issued was for an abandoned fire on Irish Creek Road (just north of Vernon). The individual responsible for the fire was located and issued a $345 ticket for having the fire, plus another $173 for failure to extinguish a fire.
“We’ve had people using burning barrels burning garbage, we had one golf course that did a bunch of trimmings after a storm and burned during the day.”
While complaints are a main source of how officers are alerted to fires, they are also discovering fires in remote areas on their own.
Those who are caught around a campfire are reminded that they too are on the hook for the $345 fine.
“Even if they didn’t start it, every person who uses that fire is also ticketed,” said Lockwood.
Some of the excuses Lockwood has heard include:
“I didn’t start it. It was here when I got here.”
“It’s out now, it was just a little one we cooked a hotdog on.”
“What’s camping without a campfire?”
“I have a fire but I know how to put it out.”
But even if the fire is out when officers arrive, if there a witness to the fire, tickets will be issued.
While they are out, officers are also finding additional illegal activities, such as impaired driving on back roads, which they will issue a 24-hour drivers licence suspension for. And it’s not just land activity that is keeping conservation officers busy. They are also patrolling the lakes.
The North Okanagan Enhanced Policing Patrols cover Mabel, Sugar and Mara Lakes as well as Cosens Bay (it is in addition to the Okanagan and Shuswap patrols).
Since the enhanced patrols started at the end of June until Aug. 8 they have checked 153 vessels, 426 people, issued 56 violations, 202 warnings and ordered 19 boats off the water for either alcohol consumption or safety issues.
Tickets are issued for a variety of reasons from no life jackets (which paddle boarders are also ticketed for) to no pleasure craft operator card or no registration to towing without a spotter, littering and angling without a licence.
“There’s not a lot of compliance,” said Lockwood, as there are usually few boats and operators out on the water which meet requirements.