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Campfires and Backyard Burning:
General Guide to Responsible Burning

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Campfires: Fires for cooking, warmth and ceremonial purposes

Careless use of campfires is one of the leading causes of forest fires. Fires for cooking, warmth and ceremonial purposes must comply with the simple requirements of the Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression Regulation as described in this brochure.

Although conditions for safe burning are outlined in the regulation and this brochure, there are times when fires should not be lit. Fires should not be lit or allowed to continue to burn when the:

  • wind is strong enough to cause sparks to be carried to other combustible material; or
  • when a notice banning or restricting the use of campfires is in effect.

When building your campfire:

Select your campsite carefully and with full regard for safety.

Prepare your campfire by removing all leaves, twigs and other flammable material from an area extending at least 30 centimetres around the fire.

Be sure to scrape or dig down to mineral soil.

Build your campfires at least three metres from any log, stump, snag, standing tree or wooden structure

The size of the campfire must not exceed one metre in height and one metre in diameter. The best cooking fire is small and hot.

Equip yourself with a shovel or a pail of water containing at least 8 litres. These must be kept near the fire at all times. 

Attend your campfire at all times and be certain it is extinguished before leaving it. Sift the ashes with your fingers to be sure.

Campfire restrictions or bans

During periods when forest fuels are dry (spring, summer or fall) and the danger of forest fires increases, the Forest Service may need to impose bans or restriction on the use of campfires. This action may be necessary to limit the risk of a forest fire starting or to address public health or safety concerns.

The use of campfires as described in the Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression Regulation does not apply to stoves that use gas or briquettes or approved permanent campsites located in provincial parks or privately owned and supervised commercial campgrounds or picnic sites. If you are unsure about your situation contact the Forest Service office nearest you.

If you see a wildfire or unattended campfire,
report it by calling toll free 1-800-663-5555
or cellular *5555

Contravention of the Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression Regulation may result in a offence. A person who contravenes the regulation may be liable for fire fighting costs and damage caused by the fire.

Backyard Burning

Does the Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression Regulation apply to your burn?

Check with your local fire department, municipality, improvement district, or regional district to determine if there are local by-laws that pertain to burning woody debris. If there are by-laws in place locally please contact those agencies for your authority to burn safely.

B.C. Environment administers the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation under the Waste Management Act that may apply to your burn. Instead of burning, reuse and recycle as much organic material as possible. If safe burning is the only option remaining, please be aware of your obligations under the Waste Management ActOpen Burning Smoke Control Regulation. Check with the B.C. Environment office nearest you to determine if the smoke control regulation applies.

If there are no local burning by-laws and you are planning to burn within one kilometre of a forest and you have determined how the B.C. Environment smoke control regulation applies to your burn, the Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression Regulation sections on open fires will apply.

"Backyard" fires are considered to be small fires for burning waste material (paper, cardboard, lumber, brush, slash, stumps, trees or other woody debris) not exceeding 2 metres in height and 3 metres in diameter. These accumulations are normally hand piled. These fires are considered small open fires for waste material Category 1.

Backyard burning also includes burning grass or stubble where the area is less than 0.2 hectares in size (2000 sq. metres). This type of fire is a small open fire for grass or stubble Category 2.

Persons may light or make use of these types of open fires if:

  • they are the owner of the private land; or
  • authorized by the owner of the private to burn on the land; or
  • authorized to use fire on Crown land.

If your waste material scheduled for burning is larger than 2 metres by 3 metres or the area of grass or stubble is larger than 0.2 hectares, please refer to the Forest Service brochure titled Industrial/Agricultural Burning – Large Open Fires.

Small Open Fires for Waste Material
Category 1

When burning waste material not exceeding 2 metres in height and 3 metres in diameter or width, the following requirements apply:

Requirements:

Prepare your fire by removing all leaves, twigs and other flammable material for an area extending at least 1 metre in all directions from the fire. Be sure to scrape or dig down to mineral soil.

The distance from the fire to any slash, snag, standing tree or wooden structure must be at least twice the diameter or width of the waste material, whichever is greater, but never less than 2 metres.

At least one adult person must be on the burn site who actively patrols to prevent escapes and who is equipped with:

  • a round nose shovel, axe or pulaski and
  • a pail containing at least 18 litres of water, or an equivalent means to deliver 18 litres of water.

No more than two accumulations may be ignited at one time. The accumulations must not be more than 50 metres apart. One of them must be extinguished before another accumulation is ignited.

Additional Requirements for small open fires
for waste material and for grass or stubble

The person burning must, immediately on the fire escaping or threatening to escape, in addition to the person patrolling provide:

  • two adult persons with suitable fire fighting tools; and

  • must ensure they make reasonable attempts to extinguish the fire.

All backyard burning must be extinguished before a person leaves the area.

Small Open Fire for Grass or Stubble
Category 2

When burning grass or stubble where the area to be burned is less than 0.2 hectares in size (2000 sq. metres) the following requirements apply:

Requirements:

  • A fuel break * must be established around the burn area to prevent the fire from escaping.

* a fuel break means:

  1. an existing barrier or change in fuel type or condition; or

  2. a strip of land that has been modified or cleared that acts as a buffer to prevent fire spread.

  • At least 2 adult persons at the burn area who actively patrol to prevent the fire from escaping, who are equipped with:

  • a round nose shovel, axe or pulaski; and

  • a means to deliver 400 litres of water to any place on the burn area in a manner which is appropriate to fire fighting.

  • Only one burn area may be ignited or burning at any one time.

  • The fire on a burn area must be extinguished before another burn area is ignited.

If your fire escapes
or you require assistance containing your fire
call 1-800-663-5555
or cellular *5555.

Restrictions or Bans on Backyard Burning

During periods when forest fuels are dry (spring, summer or fall) and the danger of forest fires increases, the Forest Service may need to impose bans or restriction on the use of fires. This action may be necessary to limit the risk of a forest fire starting or to address public health or safety concerns.

Contravention of the Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression Regulation may result in a offence. A person who contravenes the regulation may be liable for fire fighting costs and damage caused by the fire.

For information on this and other topics relating to the Ministry of Forests’ Protection Program, please visit our website at http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/protect/

Still not sure?

If you need help planning your burning activities, give us a call at
1-888-797-1717 or contact the B.C. Forest Service Fire Centre office nearest you: