It was meant to be a romantic, viral stunt, but the flames of love ignited on a Vancouver Island beach have quickly fanned the flames of anger among locals.
The video, posted on TikTok last week, depicts a man and a woman standing on Chesterman Beach near Tofino, with the caption, “He said he wanted to do something cute to show how much he loves me then did this.”
The man lights a flame in the sand, which spreads into a large heart shape around the couple, as the woman comments how cute the gesture was.
Highway 4 closed due to risk of falling debris
Ashley Smeeth, who posted the video to TikTok, explained in the comments that it was ignited using paper towels and gasoline.
But the video quickly generated an outpouring of outrage.
British Columbia is in the midst of its worst-ever wildfire season, and there is a total fire ban on Vancouver Island which is currently in Level 5 drought conditions.
“I was appalled,” Tofino local Marcie Callewaert told Global News.
“If you’re going to call yourself an influencer, if there’s a chance somebody is going to repeat it, that consequence is on you.”
Tofino residents were already particularly sensitive to fire risks this year, after the Cameron Bluffs wildfire east of Port Alberni forced the weeks-long closure of Highway 4 — the only route to the community.
Wet weather provides some relief in B.C. wildfire fight
The highway continues to face intermittent closures for repair work, and local businesses which rely heavily on summer tourism have suffered significantly.
Tuff City Radio host Cameron Dennison said when the video began to make the rounds, his station was flooded with angry calls.
“This particular thing, because of the nature of it and how it actually affected nature really upset a lot of people,” he told Global News.
BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Gordon Robinson said the episode was a reminder to everyone to pay close attention to fire restrictions.
He said despite a brief bout of cooler weather, extreme heat is forecast to return to the region over the weekend and vegetation remains dry.
Dozens of fires sparked in B.C. over long weekend
“Right now even a campfire is dangerous,” he said.
“Fireworks, tiki-torches, any sort of open fire especially anything that has the potential to send sparks or embers up into other fuels are extremely dangerous. There’s really no reason to be doing anything like that right now.”
Smeeth did not respond to an interview request from Global News.
However the backlash appears to have had an effect, and the video has since been deleted from her 21,000-follower TiKTok account.
What appears to be an apology video, stating that the couple “just wanted to make a cute video to show our love,” has also been posted on her partner’s account.
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