Proposed campfire system costly for commercial operators

The provincial government should stay away from a two-tier campfire prohibition system, according to Merlin Blackwell of Blackwell Park Operations

The provincial government should stay away from a two-tier campfire prohibition system, according to Merlin Blackwell of Blackwell Park Operations.

“Our biggest concern is it would mean we would have to spend a lot of money where there are almost no history of incidents,” Blackwell told Clearwater council last Tuesday.

The Ministry of Natural Resource Operations’ Wildfire Management Branch is looking into having a one-year trial of the two-tier system.

Under the system, campfires would be allowed in supervised commercial campgrounds during high fire danger periods, even when they are banned elsewhere.

Campfires would be banned everywhere during extreme fire danger periods.

Under the system, commercial campground operators would be required to have staff take the two-day S-100 basic wildfire suppression and safety course. They also would need to supply firefighting equipment, including a water delivery system, plus ensure that their campgrounds are supervised at all times.

“The local spending would be substantial,” said Blackwell. “Our operation would be looking at $15,000 in the first year and then $5,000 to $7,000 per year after that.”

The local park facility operator noted his business has between 15 and 20 staff that would have to be trained, at $105 per course plus their pay while training. The course would need to be renewed regularly.

Blackwell said they already provide basic firefighting tools, but the proposed system takes the requirements a few steps higher.

They also usually only visit some campgrounds on a daily basis to collect fees. Having someone there 24 hours would add significantly to their costs.

Clearwater fire chief Mike Smith asked, “If commercial campgrounds are going to be allowed to have fires while at the high hazard rating, what will the private landowners have to say when they will be excluded?”

The fire chief also had questions about who would make sure the campgrounds are compliant with the regulations.

Smith said he thought the two-tier system would be more trouble than it would be worth.

 

The discussion about the two-tier campfire system was the result of a request from Union of B.C. Municipalities for feedback on the proposal. The District will now take the input provided and draft a response to UBCM.