Fire Bans and Restrictions

Failing to adhere to fire bans and restrictions can lead to serious fines and penalties. Find out what prohibitions are in place and how they may affect fire use in your area.

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A campfire is an open fire that burns piled material no larger than 0.5 m in height and 0.5 m in width and is used by any person for recreational purpose, or by a First Nation for a ceremonial purpose.

Many British Columbians and visitors to our province enjoy campfires. To prevent your campfire from turning in to a wildfire be sure to:

  • Check current campfire restrictions for the area you are in
  • Select your campsite and campfire location carefully
  • Remove all leaves, twigs and other flammable material from the area around where you plan to light your campfire
  • Never have a campfire when it’s windy
  • Choose a proper fire pit or make a ring of rocks at least three metres from trees, shrubs, structures and debris
  • Do not leave a campfire unattended for ANY amount of time
  • Keep a bucket of at least eight litres of water close by the fire at all time, and/or a hand tool (such as a shovel) to extinguish the fire properly
  • Completely extinguish your campfire before you go to sleep or leave the area for any period of time.
  • To extinguish your campfire, pour plenty of water on the fire and surrounding area, dousing the site of the campfire thoroughly. Stir the campfire until there are no embers and the ashes are cold to the touch.

Poorly managed and abandoned campfires result in numerous wildfires each year. Follow the links below to find out the best ways to avoid your campfire from turning into a wildfire.

"Category 2 open fire" means an open fire, other than a campfire, that burns:

  • material in one pile not exceeding 2 m in height and 3 m in width,
  • material concurrently in 2 piles each not exceeding 2 m in height and 3 m in width, or
  • stubble or grass over an area that does not exceed 0.2 ha.

"Category 3 open fire" means an open fire that burns:

  • material concurrently in 3 or more piles each not exceeding 2 m in height and 3 m in width,
  • material in one or more piles each exceeding 2 m in height or 3 m in width,
  • one or more windrows, or
  • stubble or grass over an area exceeding 0.2 ha.

Anyone lighting a Category 3 fire must first obtain a burn registration number by calling 1 888 797-1717. These numbers are logged into the Open Fire Tracking System (OFTS) along with details about the registered burn.

Learn about the Open Fire Tracking System

Unsure if you need to register your burn? Want to know what your legal obligations are when open burning? The Government of British Columbia has produced a series of pamphlets which detail safe practices and the regulations around open burning.  

A summary of the open burning regulations in B.C. and different fire categories (PDF, poster) is also available.

For the current fire danger rating and weather see Fire Danger.
Visit BC Air Quality to view the venting index.

The operation of any aircraft not associated with fire suppression activities (including drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)) near a wildfire is illegal. It also poses a serious threat to the safety of firefighting personnel.

Learn more about UAVs and wildfires

Off-road vehicle (ORV) laws now apply to a wide range of vehicles used or operated for work or leisure purposes on Crown land and prescribed private land. Under section 2 of the ORV Regulation, ORV’s include:

  • Snowmobiles
  • All-terrain vehicles (or “quads”)
  • Off-road motorcycles
  • Side-by-sides (e.g., “argos”, “rhinos” and “razors”)
  • Jeeps, trucks, SUVs and other small on-highway motor vehicles

Anyone operating an ORV on or within 300 metres of forest land or grass land must ensure that:

  • The operation of their ORV does not cause a fire
  • Their ORV is equipped with a safe and effective spark arrestor
  • Their ORV is equipped with an exhaust system and muffler that are within the manufacturer’s specifications

View the ORV infographic.

Learn more about ORV's

A Restricted Area Order is a legal document administered through a local Fire Centre by the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development. It is put in place to prohibit access to areas where there are ongoing fire suppression activities occurring, to limit the risk of wildfire occurring or to address a public safety concern. Restricted Area Orders are established to enforce the continued need to protect the public and emergency service personnel in active wildfire areas.

When a Restricted Area Order is established under section 11(2) of the Wildfire Act, a person must not remain in or enter the restricted area without the prior written authorization of an official designated for the purposes of the Wildfire Act, unless the person enters the area only in the course of:

  • Travelling to or from his or her residence;
  • Using a highway as defined in the Transportation Act;
  • Travelling through or entering the area as a person acting in an official capacity that is connected or involved in incident operations ; or
  • Travelling through or entering the area for a purpose approved by an official of supporting wildfire suppression activities.
     

When an area restriction is in place the “Forest Use” icon on the Fire Bans & Restrictions page will turn yellow. Each Fire Centre has the heading “Forest Use Restrictions” that will display maps and information bulletins for Restricted Areas that are in place.

All trails and backroads that are not included within the boundary of Restricted Area Orders, Evacuation Orders, or are otherwise under municipal jurisdiction, remain open for public use.

Q: Why is the use of fire banned?

A: The decision when or where to implement a fire ban is made by the regional fire centres depending on local fire hazards or dangers, the type of weather conditions forecasted and the type and level of fire activity being experienced.

Bans can also be implemented in anticipation of an increase in lightning-caused fires or during critical fire situations, when the BC Wildfire Service cannot afford to risk having human-caused fires divert resources from naturally-caused ones.

In these situations, fires present an unacceptable risk and detract from detection and response capabilities by increasing the number of ‘false-alarm’ smoke chases, wildfire phone reports and nuisance fires.

Q: Where do fire bans and restrictions apply?

A: The Wildfire Act and Regulation, and therefore fire bans and restrictions, apply on Crown land and private land not covered by local open burning bylaws put in place by local government (i.e. municipalities, regional districts).

This includes municipal and privately owned campgrounds not covered by municipal bylaws, forestry recreation sites and provincial and federal parks. BC Parks may also designate certain BC Parks campsites as ‘no campfire’ locations.

Q: How do I find out if there is a fire ban or restriction in place?

A: For open fires and campfires on Crown land and private land see Current Bans and Restrictions.

But, as these restrictions do not include areas which are within the boundaries of local government and subject to local bylaws, you should also check with local government authorities before lighting any fires.

Before lighting a campfire it is also important to check the campfire policy for the campground you are staying in. For BC Parks campgrounds, see the Provincial Parks Affected by Fire Restrictions page, plus the notes for the particular campground you’re interested in, on the BC Parks website.

Q: It has been raining for several days in my region, why is there still a fire prohibition?

A: While the risk of wildfire in your area may have decreased, the provincial wildfire situation may be different and more active. As a result, personnel from across the province may be responding to fires outside of their regional and fire centre boundaries, limiting the amount of resources available in wetter areas.

In these situations, fires also present an unacceptable risk and detract from detection and response capabilities by increasing the number of ‘false-alarm’ smoke chases, wildfire phone reports and nuisance fires.

Q: Why are large, land clearing pile fires allowed when smaller fires are prohibited?

A: Current procedures require all Category 3 open fires, including land clearing piles, to be registered. This makes it relatively easy to revoke or reinstate these registration numbers as local weather impacts fire danger. BC Wildfire Service encourages the reduction of wildfire hazard from land clearing debris and has found the flexibility of the burn registration process useful to allow safe burning of large piles when weather is favourable.

To register a Category 3 open fire, please call 1 888 797-1717 toll free.

Q: What happens if I have a fire when a prohibition is in place?

A: Anyone found in contravention of a fire prohibition may be fined up to $1,150. If your fire escapes and results in a wildfire, you may be fined anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million and be sentenced to one year in prison.

Full list of wildfire-related violation fines in B.C.

Q: What can I use when there is a campfire ban in place?

A: Some activities and devices are permitted when a campfire ban is in place and some are not. This varies depending on the prohibition itself; check details of the current bans and restrictions.

Often, campfire prohibitions still allow the use of CSA-rated or ULC-rated cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes, or of portable campfire apparatus that use briquettes, liquid fuel or gaseous fuel, as long as the height of the flame is less than 15 cm tall. However, in extreme fire conditions these may also be prohibited

Often, other activities are also prohibited when Category 2 open fire and/or campfire prohibitions are in force, these include:

  • Larger fires (Category 2 and Category 3)
  • Burning barrels and burning cages
  • Fireworks, fire crackers, sky lanterns
  • Binary exploding targets

Check current bans and restrictions for full details.