Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says the city is pushing to increase the current by-law fine of $150 to $500 in a move to increase compliance
"In both cases, large areas of grass were consumed by a fire that the cause was determined to be a cigarette. That's an enormous risk, particularly if children are playing in the parks," he said.
'Misinformation' about the risk
Smoking has been illegal in Coquitlam city parks for five years, but Stewart said people aren't getting the message.
"There seems to be a lot of misinformation and a complete misunderstanding of the level of risk we're at. We had an incredibly dry May — the driest in recent record — June was very dry, and we've had almost no rain in July."
Stewart says the city receives multiple calls a day about small fires in parks and forests. He took to social media to make a plea to smokers to consider the risk before lighting up in city parks:
"We're not trying to be mean or vindictive to smokers. We're trying to protect our parks for future generations."
Sweeping park closures a possibility
Stewart said if enforcement and compliance don't work, the city may consider closing its parks entirely.
"We're reluctant to do that, and we really hope that this kind of measure will help us toward compliance."
The new by-law to increase the smoking fine will go through it's fourth and final reading at city council next Monday, where it's expected to pass.