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Wildfires, Air Quality & Burning

Wildfires are a reality in the Cowichan region. Our beautiful forests have always been part of a cycle of growth, destruction and regrowth. As the temperatures get warmer and vegetation gets dryer, the risk of wildfire increases. Wildfires can be caused by nature (lightening strikes), direct human interaction (equipment use, cigarettes, unsupervised campfires) and indirect human actions (increasing heat and drought due to climate change).

The lands and communities next to and surrounded by wildlands are at risk of wildfires.

Protecting the Community

Communities can reduce their risk to wildfire in a number of ways. Municipalities and the Regional District in Cowichan take measures to protect critical services and infrastructure from wildfire loss, including maintenance of adjacent vegetation, using fire-resistant building materials and providing staff education on the risks of wildfire.

Community members can also take similar measures to protect their homes, farms, and businesses – see more.

How to Prepare:
  • Know the Risk. Make a Plan. Build a Kit.
  • Get insurance – Disaster Financial Assistance is not available for fire damage.
  • Sign up for CowichanAlert
What To Do In The Event Of A Wildfire

If you receive an evacuation alert – follow the instructions. You are being asked to get ready to leave should the situation worsen. Some things you may be asked to do include:

  • Grab your go-kit, essential documents, and medication and place them near the door.
  • Ensure your vehicle has fuel.
  • Get prepared for a power outage.
  • Contact family and friends to pre-arrange alternate accommodations.

If you receive an evacuation order – follow the instructions. You are being told to leave immediately.

Air Quality

Air quality can be affected during wildfires. When air quality is affected, take necessary precautions to reduce impact to your health:

  • Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Consider a commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter that can further reduce poor indoor air quality near the device.
  • Reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking or burning other materials.
  • Consider visiting a location with cooler filtered air, like a shopping mall or library.
  • Reduce your smoke exposure by moving to cleaner air if available.
  • Pay attention to local air quality reports – air quality may be poor even though smoke may not be visible.
  • If possible, seek cleaner air. If you cannot access cleaner air, a face mask can provide protection from wildfire smoke.
Current Fire Bans

For the most current provincial conditions and bans, visit BC Fire Bans and Restrictions.

Additional restrictions and limitations on the use of fire including burning may be established by the local authority or First Nation of jurisdiction. Specific dates and times may be available to for burning activities if a provincial ban is not in place. For information on burning, visit your jurisdiction’s public information page (some sites can be found below).
Current Burning Permissions
Open burning—or burning outdoors—is allowed when the wildfire risk is low and can be a useful tool when conducted responsibly. Open burning includes Category 1 campfire, Category 2 and Category 3 open fire.
Regional Water Use Restrictions
During drought conditions, your water system operator may introduce water use restrictions to conserve limited water supplies. There are four stages of water restrictions which are coordinated across the Cowichan Valley. Local conditions may sometimes require a higher stage of water restrictions on certain systems.
No Restrictions
Stage 1 Restrictions
Stage 2 Restrictions
Stage 3 Restrictions
Stage 4 Restrictions