Open Burning

Open burning—or burning outdoors—is allowed when the wildfire risk is low and can be a useful tool when conducted responsibly. Even if there are no provincial open burning prohibitions in place, check with local government authorities for any other open burning restrictions.

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British Columbia is large and geographically diverse province. For that reason, decisions on when and where to implement fire bans and restrictions are made by B.C.’s six regional fire centres.

Multiple factors are taken into consideration when assessing wildfire hazards and deciding whether to implement an open fire prohibition, including: current and forecasted weather conditions; the availability of firefighting resources and the Buildup Index (BUI).

Open burning includes campfires, Category 2 and Category 3 open fires:

Campfires

A campfire is defined as:

  • Any fire no larger than 0.5 metres high by 0.5 metres wide (a fire larger than this is considered a Category 2 fire).
  • Used by any person for recreational purposes or by a First Nation for a ceremonial purpose.

Campfires should be less than one-half metre high

Responsible campfire use follows the campfire regulations (PDF, poster). 

Avoid having 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, and do not leave a campfire unattended for ANY amount of time.

Category 2 open fire

This category refers to fires, other than a campfire, that burn:

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

Category 2 open fire

Category 3 open fire

This category means an open fire that burns:

  • material concurrently in 3 or more piles each not exceeding 2 metres in height and 3 metres in width
  • material in one or more piles each exceeding 2 metres in height or 3 metres in width
  • one or more windrows (row of cut hay or small grain crop)
  • stubble or grass over an area exceeding 0.2 hectares.

Category 3 open fire

Before you burn

Before lighting a fire, even if the burn category is not currently prohibited, ensure you are properly prepared, aware of the conditions and following open burning regulations:

  • Establish a fuel break around your Category 2 or 3 burn or fire guard around your campfire.
  • Ensure someone is always monitoring the fire so it doesn't spread beyond its intended size. At least one person equipped with a fire-fighting hand tool must monitor the fire at all times. 
  • Do not burning when venting conditions are "Poor" or "Fair"

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.

Unsure if you need to register your burn? Want to know what your legal obligations are when open burning? Learn more about registering a burn.

The Government of BC has produced a series of pamphlets which detail safe practices and the regulations around open burning.  

Regulations and fines

Responsible campfire use follows the campfire regulations (PDF, poster). 

Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs. Violators could also be held responsible for damages to Crown resources, which could be significant

 

Why doesn’t the BC Wildfire Service just ban all open burning during the spring and summer?

Fire is a very useful tool when used responsibly, so it doesn’t make sense to ban all forms of burning when the wildfire risk is low. During the spring, farmers and ranchers may conduct controlled burns for agricultural purposes and the forestry industry conducts “slash” burning to remove wood debris left behind after timber harvesting. British Columbia is also renowned for its great outdoors and many enjoy campfires while camping in B.C.’s parks and recreation sites. Many tourism operators also offer wilderness experiences that include campfires.