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Fines could triple under proposed legislative amendments to B.C. wildfire laws


March 11, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter


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The government of British Columbia has introduced legislative changes that, if passed, would result in “significantly increased ticket fines” for behaviour that contributes to increase wildfire risks.

The fine for failing to comply with a fire restriction under the Wildfire Act is increasing from $345 to $1,150, a 333.33% increase for that offence

Proposed legislative amendments introduced on Thursday as part of the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 12) include provisions aimed specifically at people who interfere with firefighting efforts in B.C., the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said in a press release.

The ministry said that the legislative changes would result in significantly increased ticket fines for 19 different violations under the Wildfire Act and for seven different violations under the Wildfire Regulation. For example, the fine for failing to comply with a fire restriction under the Wildfire Act is increasing from $345 (including a $45 victim surcharge) to $1,150 (including a $150 victim surcharge). This represents a 333.33% increase over the old fine for that offence.

“These changes mean that British Columbia now has some of the highest wildfire-related violation ticket fines in the country,” the release noted.

In addition, Bill 12 clarifies what is considered to be “interference” in terms of actions that could hinder firefighters. The proposed amendments would also clarify that interference does not have to be intentional to constitute a contravention of the Wildfire Act.

Another amendment to the Wildfire Act would strengthen compliance and enforcement provisions by establishing an offence and penalties of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year for failing to comply with a stop work order.

“These legislative amendments propose tough new regulations to discourage people from interfering in wildfire suppression or violating British Columbia’s wildfire laws, said Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, in the release.

On average, 30 to 40% of wildfires in B.C. are human-caused. The 2015 fire season was one of the busiest and most expensive in recent years, with over 283,400 hectares burned and over $278 million spent on wildfire management, the ministry reported.