Province extends fire ban in the Valley until June 15. (File photo)

Province extends fire ban in the Valley until June 15. (File photo)

Province extends fire ban in Cowichan until June 15

Bans also stay in place in other high-smoke sensitive zones

The province has extended open-burning restrictions in the Cowichan Valley, and all other areas in B.C. considered to be high-smoke sensitivity zones, until June 15.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in collaboration with provincial public health partners, had originally issued the restrictions until April 15 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

But as cases of COVID-19 in B.C. continue to increase, the BC Centre for Disease Control is recommending that measures that help reduce excess air pollution in populated air sheds across the province be continued.

There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function.

A press release from the ministry states that no new fires may be initiated in the impacted areas and no additional material may be added to existing fires.

However, small camp fires, no bigger than 0.5 metres high and 0.5 metres wide, are still permitted in these zones.

While backyard burning is usually permitted in the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s electoral areas between March 15 and April 15, as well as areas of North Cowichan in limited circumstances, when the venting index is ‘good,’ the CVRD and regional medical health officer asked Valley residents last month not to engage in backyard burning, and limit their use of wood stoves given the respiratory impact of COVID-19.