Fire safety urged

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett reminds people to be smart this fire season.

As you know, fire season is upon us with many wildfires burning throughout the province including Puntzi Lake, which the BC Wildfire Service reports grew to about 8,000 hectares with Rank 4 or 5 fire behaviour at its peak – meaning it caused trees to candle and spread, crowning or jumping through tree tops.

Living in a resource-dependent province, with wild space and forested area covering the majority of it, forest fires are to be expected. Over the last couple of years, especially this year, we have also experienced drier-than-normal conditions and elevated fire danger ratings in the Cariboo.

A total of 399 human-caused fires have occurred so far this year. This is unacceptable. Natural wildfires are difficult enough to deal with, and we must be very clear that human-caused wildfires will not be tolerated. It not only costs taxpayers in a huge way as far as resources are concerned, but it also puts people’s lives in danger. This is why our government is taking this issue very seriously, and why we’ve decided to take a look at the current fine and penalty structures related to human-caused forest fires and consider recommendations for a number of penalties. Currently, anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a ticket for $345, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or one year in jail.

Under the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource operations, the Cariboo Fire Centre operations are one of the best in the Province. They use everything from air tankers or water bombers, helicopters, air patrols and fire crews to locate and fight fires. I’d like to thank our emergency and fire crews who work hard in our community and across the province to help ensure we are safe. I can’t emphasize enough that they can’t do it alone and our government can’t do it alone– the responsibility is up to all of us to help prevent fires.

To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or an open burning violation, call 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or dial *5555 on a cellphone.

For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, visit www.bcwildfire.ca.

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.