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Cough — remember this? Here's how B.C. hopes to prevent a repeat of 2017 wildfires

Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia obscures downtown Bellingham in August 2017. The B.C. provincial government has increased fines for those who cause blazes, as anyone who starts a wildfire could be ordered to pay up to $1 million.
Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia obscures downtown Bellingham in August 2017. The B.C. provincial government has increased fines for those who cause blazes, as anyone who starts a wildfire could be ordered to pay up to $1 million. Bellingham Herald file

Remember all those brilliant sunny days that weren't last summer here in Whatcom County? Days when there wasn't a cloud in the sky, but you still couldn't see across Bellingham Bay through the haze, the sun was a brilliant shade of red straight out of a Star Wars movie and the smell of smoke singed your nostrils.

Mount Baker? It was just a myth for a couple of weeks, because you just couldn't see it.

Things got so bad that numerous health agencies issued warnings as much of Western Washington had air quality so poor it was worse than Beijing.

The culprits for all the smoke in the air were our friends to the north, though it hardly seems fair to blame British Columbia after it suffered through a wildfire season of historic proportions.

Now the province is taking action to help make sure it doesn't have a repeat.

The B.C. provincial government has increased fines for those who cause blazes, according to a story in the Langley Times, as anyone who starts a wildfire could be ordered to pay up to $1 million.

People or companies responsible for fires because of improper power line care, including downed power lines or allowing vegetation to grow near lines, could face an administrative penalty of $100,000.

Operators of any vehicle that causes a fire can get a $575 ticket, a $10,000 penalty and have to pay up to $1 million in court costs or spend up to three years in jail, as well as pay for firefighting costs.

British Columbia also is requiring all off-road vehicles be equipped with a spark arrestor — a small screen in the exhaust system that helps stop sparks from leaving the tailpipe. There are more fines and penalties for failure to do so.

The 2017 wildfire season resulted in approximately 3 million acres of charred land by 1,300 wildfires between April and November, according to year-in-review a story by globalnews.ca, cost more than $564 million and resulted in the longest state of emergency in the province's history.

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