By Mike Morris
Victoria: This wildfire season has been one of the most challenging in recent memory. As of July 14, fire crews have responded to 1,083 fires throughout the province – compared to 523 at the same time a year ago. Of those fires, we know over one-third are human caused. That’s 375 fires, leading to an estimated 43,718 hectares going up in flames.
We must send a clear message to those that carelessly start wildfires that their behaviour will not be tolerated. That’s why the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has asked me to take a look across government at the current structure of fines and penalties for people who cause wildfires, and consider new ways to crack down on those careless acts.
Should we double the fine for failing to extinguish a campfire? Should we ban those who break campfire bans from using our provincial parks? Should we impound the vehicles of those who flick lit cigarette butts from their car windows? These are serious actions, but I think we need to at least consider them to send the message that enough is enough.
The vast majority of British Columbians are respectful, careful people who help protect our forests from devastating wildfires. But there are still too many individuals who haven’t heard the message and continue to make careless decisions that lead to wildfires.
As a former law enforcement officer, I’m fully aware of the challenges to enforce these laws and the need to raise awareness to end these destructive acts. It’s often said that you can’t legislate against stupidity, but if exploring the idea of harsher penalties for careless acts means more people get the message, we must do it.
Naturally occurring fires from sources like lightning are difficult enough for our dedicated firefighters to handle. If we’re going to continue to ask them to put their lives on the line to keep people and property safe, we need to do everything we can to end behaviours that lead to needless wildfires.