A Category 3 fire is: any fire larger than two metres high by three metres wide; three or more concurrently burning piles no larger than two metres high by three metres wide; one or more burning windrows; stubble or grass burning over an area greater than 0.2 hectares. (Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash)

Burning season on in the Kootenays

Flames from slash pile burns were visible on the outskirts of Trail Friday night

Visible fires on the mountainside and a hazy valley near Trail serve a good reminder that open burning season is on.

Distinct flames and smoke emanating from slash pile burns above Casino Friday night prompted calls to the BC Wildfire Service and local fire department.

Turns out the open burning was registered by either an industry or private party, as are countless others across B.C., according to the ministry’s online OFTS, or Open Fire Tracking System.

Registered burn locations here: OFTS map

Anyone lighting a Category 3 fire (open burning) must first obtain a burn registration number, which is then tracked by the province and marked with a red dot on the OFTS.

“There are no current prohibitions in effect,” began spokesperson Ashley Davidoff from the Southeast Fire Centre. “Now would be the time that an industry (or private resident) would be allowed an open burn, as long as they register and follow standards,” she clarified.

“It is a good reminder to let folks know it’s that time of year where these types of burns are being conducted. And, it’s often to eliminate a hazard moving into the next fire season.”

The current OFTS map shows thousands of registered burning licences in effect. But Davidoff pointed out the resource only gives the big picture, not all burns are the same.

For starters, anyone who lights, fuels or uses an open fire (Category 2 or Category 3), must comply with the Environmental Management Act and Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation. That means prior to lighting a fire, the person is required to check local venting conditions to ensure conditions are favourable for burning.

“Just because there is a registration number that doesn’t mean there is an active fire there,” Davidoff explained. “They have to conduct their burn within the wildfire act regulations .. for example, they have to have enough people on site, and they have to determine if the ventilation is good for them to go ahead … so sometimes there will be a dot on the map, but it might not be active fire.”

Another factor to take into account, is that multiple fires may be covered under one registration number. That appears to be the case Friday night when six-or-so separate fires were visible in the outskirts of Trail.

Whatever the case, Davidoff says anyone with concerns is welcome to call the fire centre at 250.365.4014 or dial the BC Wildfire Service *5555 for information.

“I know it can get smoky” she added. “But as long as people are burning within the guidelines and doing what they are obligated to do, they are often eliminating a hazard, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

It’s important to note that a burn registration number is not a permit. Local governments may require a permit, which is the responsibility of the person conducting the burn to obtain. However, in Trail limits, all burning is banned year round.

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Locations of registered burns on OFTS dated Tuesday, Nov. 6. Image at gov.bc.ca

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