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Mountain Sledder Magazine | December 13, 2017

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Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Restriction in BC Due to Wildfires

Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Restriction in BC Due to Wildfires

Effective 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time, Friday, August 4, 2017, the operation of any off-road vehicle for recreational purposes on Crown land will be prohibited throughout the Cariboo Fire Centre, Kamloops Fire Centre and Southeast Fire Centre. In addition, all on-highway vehicles must remain on defined road surfaces.

 

A map of the affected areas is available online at: http://ow.ly/QTm330e9G5n

 

This step is being taken to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety. The operation of any off-road vehicles in these regions during the current wildfire situation creates a potential wildfire risk. While jeeps, trucks and other on-highway vehicles are permitted on designated roads, they are not allowed off-road.

The prohibition of off-road vehicles and on-highway vehicles does not apply to private lands or national parks. It also does not apply to emergency responders or to agriculture or commercial/ industrial users who operate vehicles for farming, emergency response or business purposes.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Off-Road Vehicle Restriction

What general advice do you have for people planning to head into the backcountry during the fire season?

During periods of heightened wildfire activity, British Columbians and visitors are asked to review their planned recreational activities and avoid travelling in remote backcountry areas where access may be difficult.

This can help reduce the risk of accidental wildfire starts and also mitigate fire threats to those people if these remote areas are affected by wildfires.

When fire danger ratings are elevated, wildfires can ignite easily and spread rapidly. Depending on the conditions, the B.C. government may consider implementing formal backcountry travel restrictions.

 

Why are backcountry closures or restrictions put in place?

Our first priority is keeping people safe. Every British Columbian needs to do his or her part to ensure the safety of their community. In order to protect the well-being of people and communities, specific areas of B.C.’s backcountry may be formally closed to public access due to wildfires and firefighting activity, in accordance with the Wildfire Act and Wildfire Regulation.

Certain activities (such as operating off-road vehicles) may also be restricted. Such closures and restrictions are not uncommon during the fire season. Backcountry closures and wildfire conditions are constantly monitored by BC Parks and the BC Wildfire Service.

 

Why is the use of off-road vehicles (ORVs) and on-highway vehicles being banned in the backcountry in the Cariboo Fire Centre, Kamloops Fire Centre and Southeast Fire Centre?

The use of off-road vehicles is being banned in these areas due to the extreme wildfire and weather conditions that we’re experiencing in BC at this time.

Effective at noon Pacific time on Aug. 4, 2017, the operation of any off-road vehicle for recreational purposes on Crown land will be prohibited throughout the Cariboo Fire Centre, Kamloops Fire Centre and Southeast Fire Centre to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety.

We will be stepping up enforcement patrols on the B.C. Day long weekend to ensure compliance with this prohibition.

 

Are there any exceptions to this restriction?

The prohibition of off-road vehicles and on-highway vehicles does not apply to private lands or national parks. It also does not apply to emergency responders or to agriculture or commercial/industrial users who operate vehicles for farming, emergency response or business purposes.

 

Can you give me some examples of uses that are permitted and are not permitted under this prohibition, and on what types of road surfaces?

Jeeps, trucks and other on-highway vehicles are permitted on designated roads under this prohibition, including forest service roads. However, they are not allowed to go off- road.

Travelling cross-country off of a travelled road surface in a Jeep, truck or 4×4 is not permitted.

Driving an ATV on a forest service road or designated trail is not permitted.

People who are going camping at a recreation site — so long as it is not in the Cariboo Fire Centre — may travel on a forest service road.

 

My ORV has a spark arrestor. Why can’t I go riding?

Public safety is our paramount concern in this situation. All ORVs should have a spark arrestor installed to reduce wildfire risks, but hot mufflers or build-ups of grass or other vegetation on hot spots can also help spark a wildfire — especially if the vehicle is driven in tall grass or weeds or off of established trails.

 

What is the fine for violating this restriction?

People can be issued a violation ticket that carries a fine of $767 for violating the off-road vehicle restriction. If the activity causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

 

When was the last time ORV activity was restricted in BC?

While this is the first time that an activity has been restricted, area restrictions are quite common.

 

What criteria are considered in making these decisions?

Before implementing such a prohibition, the BC Wildfire Service considers the current fire danger ratings, wildfire activity in these areas, available firefighting resources and forecasted weather conditions.

August is typically the busiest month of the wildfire season, so the current situation could get worse before it gets better – despite the efforts being made by our firefighters.

 

When will the ban be lifted?

The off-road vehicle restriction ban will be lifted when the BC Wildfire Service determines that threat levels have been reduced to the point where operating an ORV in the backcountry is no longer considered to pose a significant risk to public safety.

How can I find out what closures or restrictions are currently in place?

Closures or requests for the public to stay out of specific areas are typically communicated through media releases, on government websites (e.g. www.bcwildfire.ca), social media channels and community bulletin boards.

Links to all closures (apart from area restriction orders) are listed at www.bcwildfire.ca under “Information for Tourists and Travellers”.

 

Can forestry activities be shut down?

High-risk industrial activities have already been restricted in some areas to protect the lives of people working in our forests and to limit the possibility of accidental fire starts.

Under the Wildfire Regulation, high-risk activities include things such as mechanical brushing, blasting with explosives, grinding, cutting with spark-producing tools, welding, operating a power saw to fall or buck timber, skidding logs, yarding logs using cable systems, portable wood chipping and other activities.

More information on restrictions on forestry activity is available online here.

 

Can you give me an example of when backcountry restrictions were implemented in the past?

In order to protect the public, closures in areas where wildfires are burning are not uncommon during the fire season. In 2003, the BC government implemented a wider restriction to a large geographic area to help reduce the probability of new, human-caused fires. Those restrictions included a backcountry voluntary restriction for the southern half of the province. A full Backcountry Travel Restriction Order for the southern third of the province was implemented later that year.

 

What are the main ways to restrict public activity in the backcountry?

There are several ways to restrict public activities or access in the backcountry: an activity restriction, under Section 12 of the Wildfire Act (e.g. a campfire ban)  an area restriction, under Section 11 of the Wildfire Act, which could affect only a small area or a more extensive area (e.g. a backcountry closure), a requirement to leave a specified area, under Section 13 of the Wildfire Act.

Voluntary backcountry restriction:

British Columbians may be encouraged to avoid going into the backcountry unless it is absolutely necessary. This would include areas outside of cities and towns that are typically more remote or undeveloped.

Be aware of current and forecasted weather conditions. Wildfires can often be sparked by lightning storms, so people should always have an exit plan prepared so they can leave the area in case of a wildfire.

Cellphones may be unreliable in remote areas of the backcountry. Where coverage is poor, it can be very difficult to locate people and notify them about potential wildfire dangers.

Remote areas with poor access are difficult to evacuate and escape routes may be hampered by a wildfire or smoke.

 

Area restriction:

Area restrictions may be implemented around particular wildfires to protect public safety and make sure that people do not interfere with firefighting activities. This is done through a Restricted Area Order that applies to a specific area.

People must not remain in or enter the area designated by the order. Exceptions may apply if a person obtains the written authorization of an official to enter the area in order to travel to and from his or her residence or to travel to or from an operation or activity that has been specifically exempted in the order.

Government officials, including Natural Resource Officers and Conservation Officers, will patrol in and around these areas to enforce the area restriction order and educate the public.

 

Closures of parks, recreation sites and trails:

Public access to provincial parks, recreation sites and trails may be temporarily closed if the wildfire situation warrants it. This step can help reduce the risk of accidental wildfire starts, keep people out of harm’s way and ensure that they do not interfere with firefighting activities or impede access to areas affected by wildfires.

Government officials, including Natural Resource Officers and Conservation Officers, will patrol in and around these areas to enforce the order and educate the public.

 

Full backcountry closures:

A full backcountry closure order may be implemented if the wildfire situation warrants it to protect public safety and reduce the risk of new wildfire starts. People must not remain in or enter the area designated by the order.

A full backcountry closure restricts all access to the affected area(s), with the exception of authorized personnel such as firefighters or first responders.

 

To report a wildfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, visit: www.bcwildfire.ca

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