B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations releases information bulletin for May long weekend

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has released an information bulletin on Wednesday, May 17 to stay safe outdoors over the May long weekend.

The Ministry says that most provincial parks and recreation sites will be open over the Victoria Day long weekend, but anyone planning to head outdoors should first check road conditions and visit the BC Parks website and Recreation Sites as well as the Trails BC website for up-to-date information about site conditions, closures and forest service road closures.

The province’s natural resource officers, conservation officers and park rangers will be conducting extensive patrols over the long weekend to help ensure that British Columbians and visitors have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

With regards to flooding and landslides, the Ministry recommends the following:

Given the heavy rainfall and melter runoff in some areas of the province over the past few weeks, everyone is urged to use caution in areas that are susceptible to high water flows, flooding and landslides.

Avoid putting yourself in hazardous situations and stay as far away from floodwaters as possible. Just 15 centimetres of moving water can sweep people off their feet and as little as 60 centimetres can carry away most vehicles.

Runoff and flood conditions can create numerous hazards, including road washouts, undercut banks, structural failures and water contamination. Floodwaters can quickly wash out roads and bridges, so be prepared and plan alternative routes in advance.

If a road is flooded or marked “closed”, turn around and use another route. Drivers should visit the Drive BC website for up-to-date information about road conditions and closures. Information about forest service road closures is available online at http://ow.ly/ZRdD30bMpd5.

For information on flood conditions and evacuation orders, visit the Emergency Info BC website.

With regards to camping and fire safety, the Ministry says:

Many campgrounds have rules and guidelines specific to those locations and visitors must comply with the posted rules. Gates in provincial parks and some recreation sites close at 11p.m., unless otherwise stated. Only registered campers may be present in these campsites after 11p.m.

Excessive noise is not permitted. Please remember that sound can travel far in open air, especially music and loud talking. Liquor consumption is prohibited in parks except within your own campsite.

To avoid problems with bears and other wildlife, lock up all food in a vehicle overnight. Use the garbage containers provided and maintain a clean campsite. Never feed or approach bears.

Designated swimming areas that are marked by buoys are intended to protect swimmers. All watercraft and water-skiers must stay out of these areas.

Campfires must not be larger than 0.5 metres high or 0.5 metres wide. Never light a campfire or keep it burning in windy conditions. Weather can change quickly and wind may carry embers to other combustible material.

Maintain a one-metre fireguard around the campfire. This is a fuel-free area where all flammable materials (grass, kindling, etc.) have been removed right down to the soil.

Never leave a campfire unattended.

Have a shovel or at least eight litres of water available to properly extinguish your campfire. Make sure that the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.

Anyone who lights a campfire is legally responsible for making sure it doesn’t escape. They could be held accountable for damages and fire suppression costs if their negligence results in a wildfire. Anyone found in a contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail.

Anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike should have a spark arrestor installed on the vehicle. Check the condition of the muffler stay on dirt paths and avoid tall grass and weeds to reduce wildfire risks.

Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking material responsible, making sure that these materials are completely extinguished.

Finally, with regards to off-road vehicles, the Ministry recommends the following:

Most provincial parks are closed to off-road vehicle use unless otherwise posted.

When riding off-road vehicles, respect the environemnt and use trails that are designated for motorized use. Keep vehicles out of sensitive sites that could be easily damaged, such as wetlands, grasslands, alpine areas and subalpine environments.

Operators of all-terrain vehicles are reminded that these vehicles must be insured if they will be driven on forest service roads. For more information visit the ICBC website.

To report a wildfire, unattended campfire, or open burning violation, call 1-800-633-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. To report suspicious activities, environmental damage, or a natural resource violation, call 1-877-952-7277 or *7277 on a cellphone.

To learn more visit the following websites; BC Wildfire Service, Fire restrictions and bans, Drive BC, Emergency Info BC, Recreation Sites and Trails BC, BC Parks, and Discover Camping.