BX Swan Lake Fire Rescue responded to a third burn pile call in 24 hours Wednesday, March 17, just before 4 p.m. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Recent grass fires around Vernon spark reminder about open burns

Fines for not complying with RDNO burn bylaw can range from $50-2K

  • Mar. 23, 2021 12:00 a.m.

It’s only the start of spring and the BX-Swan Lake Fire Department has already put out around seven grass fires in the past week, many of which started from a burn pile.

Now, the department is reminding the public of the rules for open burning.

Open burning is allowed with a valid permit within Electoral Areas B and C’s fire protection areas between Halloween and April 30.

“The grass in our area is dry right now,” Fire Chief Bill Wacey said.” Open-air fires must be supervised at all times until the fire is extinguished. Do not turn your back, even for a moment, as the wind can pick-up suddenly and cause the fire to spread.”

Ahead of burning, residents must check for fire bans or restrictions and ensure permits are valid.

Residents must ensure burn piles are less than two metres high, three metres wide and more than 10 metres away from anything from structures to vegetation.

Burning materials such as stumps, trunks, branches and prunings must be from the property and must be dried for a minimum of 180 days before burning. Compostable materials such as leaves and weeds are prohibited.

A competent supervisor must be on-site at all times with water and extinguishing equipment.

The venting index must register at 55 (Good) or higher. This index is updated each morning and afternoon, so use the most up-to-date information. The venting index is based on whether current atmospheric turbulence and low-wind conditions help with the quick dispersal of smoke — this will keep the smoke off the ground and away from the neighbours.

“We repeatedly respond to calls where burning is happening while the venting index is lower than 55, which is prohibited by law,” Wacey said. “Do not assume that since it’s a clear sunny day that the venting index allows for burning. The day’s weather is not a good indicator of the venting.”

Open burning is an effective FireSmart action that can reduce a wildfire’s impact by burning fuels in a controlled setting. Another option is taking accepted yard and garden waste to the Greater Vernon Diversion and Disposal Facility.

Fines for not complying with the bylaw can range from $50 to $2,000.

READ MORE: WATCH: Potentially explosive grass fire snuffed near Vernon substation

READ MORE: City to donate $5K to Vernon Elks

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