07/09/2015 10:21 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT

Vancouver park patrols increase over cigarette butt concerns

Vancouver's fire department is increasing patrols around the city's parks after extinguishing more than 35 smoking-caused grass fires in Vancouver over the past week.

"That's a really big concern for parks," said Vancouver Capt. Jonathan Gormick.

Fire prevention officers and park rangers will be issuing municipal tickets of $500 to those who are caught smoking in parks — something that is illegal all year around — but especially dangerous in these hot dry conditions, Gormick said.

"It's not something we actively want to do but it is the last resort if warnings are being ignored," he said.

The fire department is emphasizing the importance of proper cigarette disposal because discarded cigarettes are the main cause of fires in grassy areas. Fire crews will also be ensuring all emergency water sources are available and access routes to all park areas are free of debris.

Gormick is urging people to "use a little bit of common sense" when they're in a park. There is currently a ban on coal and wood-burning barbecues in Vancouver parks, though propane barbecues are still allowed.  

Closing down parks is a possibility down the road but not currently part of the city's fire prevention strategy, according to Gormick.