British Columbia fire officials issue warning on unattended and abandoned campfires and reminder of provincial regulations after 30 campfires are reported in a week, say 29 of this season's 60 wildfires in province's Southeast were human-caused

VANCOUVER, British Columbia , July 29, 2013 () – A 70-hectare Okanagan wildfire that was likely sparked by humans Sunday underscored a weekend warning issued over a surge in the number of abandoned or unattended campfires in southeastern B.C., which included 30 in a one-week period this month.

While no other wildfires were caused by these incidents, 29 of the 60 wildfires in the Southeast Fire Centre this season have been caused by people.

Last year, 40 per cent of the fires in the province were caused by people.

While the spring and early summer was wet in the southern Interior, hot weather in recent weeks has dried out the forest, noted fire information officer Jordan Turner. Lightning has sparked a number of fires in the recent hot, dry conditions in southeastern B.C. Most of southeastern B.C. is blanketed with a moderate to high fire-risk rating, with some pockets rated as extreme.

Under provincial regulations, people must always attend a campfire and it cannot be larger than one metre by one metre. Anyone starting a camp fire must always have a shovel or at least eight litres of water to extinguish the fire.

Late Sunday night, crews were battling an aggressive wildfire about five kilometres southwest of Okanagan Falls that led the district to issue an evacuation alert Sunday evening for 12 homes in the area. Crews were expected to fight the fire into this morning, when reinforcements are due.

Five helicopters were helping 36 firefighters with the blaze Sunday evening, according to an 8:42 p.m. update. Wind gusting upwards of 25 km/h whipped the fire's size from 50 hectares to about 70 hectares Sunday night.

Also on Sunday, more than 60 firefighters continued to battle a remote blaze in southeastern B.C. The Perry Ridge fire, 4.5 kilometres west of the tiny community of Winlaw which is northwest of Nelson, grew 60 per cent Saturday night to 81 hectares. The fire is in a remote region without forestry roads and has been fought largely with the use of air tankers and helicopters, said Turner.

ghoekstra@vancouversun.com mhager@postmedia.com

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