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Plans for Halloween bonfire by North Saanich Fire Department still a go

Sidney will also continue to allow permitted fireworks for Halloween at this stage
Fireworks at the North Saanich fire hall during a previous Halloween celebration. (Black Press Media file photo)

It is not yet clear whether current climatic conditions will impact Halloween celebrations and the start of opening burning in North Saanich.

North Saanich Fire Department Chief John Trelford said the department is closely monitoring the drought conditions and the level of fire risk to see how it may affect Halloween celebrations and open burning. “While we are currently anticipating open burning to be in effect as of Nov. 3, this date is drought dependent and may be delayed due to fire risk,” he said.

Trelford made these comments after Central Saanich announced it would postpone its annual Halloween fireworks and bonfire in Centennial Park and suspend fireworks and open burning until further notice because of extreme fire risk posed by dry weather conditions.

Trelford said Wednesday morning the department is still planning on hosting its annual Halloween bonfire at the Wain Road fire hall. “(But) that will also be dependent on fire risk. The drought conditions on (Halloween) will determine whether fireworks and bonfires will be permitted. We are hopeful that conditions may change and all Halloween activities can proceed as planned.”

Trelford said the department will share updates on its website and social media channels closer to the date.

Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said his community finds itself in a different situation than the other two communities on the Saanich Peninsula.

RELATED: Severe drought conditions, extreme fire risk put a pause on open burning in Saanich

Sidney bans all burning 365 days a year. “The primary risk is ember transfer, so there is no risk of that in Sidney whatsoever,” Mikkelsen said. “Also, these are communities — Central Saanich in particular — that are much more rural municipalities than Sidney. We have much more concrete and asphalt than we have green space. So there is a lesser risk there.”

Ultimately, Sidney will continue to permit fireworks by permit only, he added. So far, the department has received one application, but Mikkelsen said he expects that the department will receive between four and five applications.

“We, as a fire department, will look at exactly where the location of these firework displays are going to be and then based on our comfort level, based on proximity to greenspace or other concerns, we will authorize a permit or not. It’s also important to point out, we are forecast to have rain starting this Friday and then it is supposed to rain from (Oct.) 26 right through the beginning of November – if you believe the forecast. We are comfortable proceeding with fireworks on our permit-basis at this time.”

The real risk in Sidney — and for that matter, anywhere else — are unpermitted fireworks or open fires, said Mikkelsen.

All this said, 2022 will see changes when it comes to where residents can set off permitted fireworks.

The outgoing council last month updated the municipality’s fireworks bylaw to prohibit the discharge of fireworks in or near two environmentally sensitive areas: Roberts Bay and KEL,SET (Reay Creak). The changes mean that residents cannot set off fireworks within 200 meters of the Roberts Bay and KELSET designated Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) with the 200m buffer starting at the edge of the ESA.

“We will have a presence in those two locations, just to do our best to make sure, wildlife is not negatively impacted,” said Mikkelsen.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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