Recent warm weather has been welcomed by many, although there has been some precipitation, dry conditions and an increased risk of forest fires still prevail across the province.
A recent forest fire near Little Bobtail Lake brings to the forefront fire safety during these dry months. That human started fire is currently under investigation by the RCMP and the Wildfire Management Branch.
Human-caused wildfires account for almost half of the wildfires in B.C. each year. The potential charges and fines, should the RCMP find the person(s) responsible for starting the Little Bobtail fire, could be a substantial amount.
According to the Wildfire Management Branch, 61 administrative law proceedings have been completed under the Wildfire Act against “persons” (a “person” could be an individual, a corporation or a company) for contraventions of the act occurring from 2006 to 2012.
These proceedings do not include minor offences such as having a campfire during a fire ban which are often issued a ticket on-site.
They are associated with an actual fire where there was a contravention or a fire response cost or damages to Crown timber or range resources. These proceedings could be in the neighbourhood of several thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There are currently 28 proceedings in various stages of completion, which could include finalizing the investigation, determining the penalty or responding to appeals. There have been approximately $143,000 in penalties and $4.3 million in damages/cost recoveries from the 61 contraventions.
There were 14 files in the Prince George Fire Centre where a person was found to have contravened the Wildfire Act and/or the Wildfire Regulation.
Provincially, there were 49 files where the person was found to have contravened the Wildfire Act and/or the Wildfire Regulation.
There are 26 new files that are currently being processed. Additional files are being reviewed and more information is being gathered to determine if a contravention will be alleged in those instances.
To avoid being charged, follow fire bans and proper protocols for ensuring your fire is extinguished before leaving your site.
The B.C. government runs an extensive public information program to advise people about the hazards of human-caused fires. You can find more information on fire bans at http://bcwildfire.ca/hprscripts/wildfirenews/bans.asp.