File photo (BC Wildfire Service)

Communities on the outer coast of Vancouver Island will no longer be exempt from provincial open fire prohibitions during the summer.

In an announcement on Monday, the BC Wildfire Service stated that people living in the jurisdiction of the Coastal Fire Centre who are sometimes allowed to have open fires when such activities are prohibited elsewhere on the island will no longer be exempt from the ban.

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The strip of land on the extreme coast between Port Renfrew and Port Hardy is often referred to as the ‘Fog Zone’ due to the frequent presence of fog in the area.

In the past, the decision to exclude this zone from open fire bans was based on this presence of fog that diminished the risk of wildfire spreading, as well as a general lack of community bylaws and campfire procedures in provincial and federal parks within that area.

However a review of this exemption conducted by the BC Wildfire Service – in collaboration with First Nations, national and provincial park staff, and local governments after the 2018 wildfire season – found that several reasons for the establishment of the fog zone had become irrelevant.

This year, provincial funding for wildfire programs, prevention, and management has increased by 58% compared to 2018, bringing BC’s total budget to $101 million.

The additional funding will be used to add more crews, enhance aerial capacity, and acquire new technologically advanced equipment. This summer, night vision goggles will also be piloted by firefighters for early detection and response purposes.

To help prevent wildfires before they start, an additional $10 million comprehensive prescribed burning program will also be implemented.