Fire conditions prompt regional ban on motorized vehicles

If you were thinking of taking your motorized vehicle into the back country this weekend, you’re out of luck.

Although acknowledged it will be difficult to enforce, the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen has banned the use of all fireworks, motorized vehicles and smoking in all public wooded, grass and brush areas in unincorporated areas.

The ban takes effect immediately and will be in place until the provincial state of emergency and extreme conditions have lifted.

The decision was made Thursday at the regional meeting and comes on the heels of the Penticton fire chief putting a similar ban in place, excluding fireworks, for Penticton, West Bench and the Penticton Indian Band.

The only director to question the ban was Area B (Cawston) director George Bush who pointed out many people in the agriculture industry use vehicles to do their work.

“Are we talking about people working the land that need to get somewhere using their vehicles?” Bush questioned.

Bill Newell, CAO for the RDOS, said the ban was not for private lands and was in essence being used as a messaging piece to deter people from going into the grassy and wooded areas and inadvertently starting a fire by smoking or with their motorized vehicles.

“We want to be very aggressive in our public messaging… and for people to be very careful with their cigarettes in these areas,” he said.

Bush was clear he would not vote for the recommendation. He along with Area A director Mark Pendergraft and Area G director Elef Christensen voted against.

Tom Siddon, Area D director, was supportive of the administrative recommendation to make the ban noting he was concerned about a planned ATV meet at Apex Mountain Resort to be held this weekend.

“I understand that has been cancelled now before the ban was in put in place,” Siddon said.

The Apex Mountain Resort facebook page states the event is cancelled because of the risk associated with current fire conditions.

Siddon requested fireworks be added to the ban as he knew at least one person who held a fireworks show over the BC Day long weekend.

Andre Martin, a director from Penticton, quickly added that if fireworks were to be included that a ban on firearms was warranted as a bullet hitting a rock could easily cause a spark.

“If we’re going to do it then we should do it all,” he said.

Directors did not agree as it would be next to impossible to enforce.

Following the vote Area H director Bob Coyne thanked his fellow directors for voting in favour of the ban.

His area includes the community of Tulameen which holds a large community event called Tulameen Days bringing thousands of people to the area many who use recreational vehicles.

The regional district has authority for the ban through the Emergency Program Act.

Signage regarding the ban will be placed in high risk areas.

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