Wildfire protection strengthened with new rules

Above: Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier discusses the enhancements to wildfire protection legislation and regulations with participants at the Forest Industries Career Day 2017 in Whitecourt. – GOA PHOTO

by Morinville News Staff

New wildfire regulations kick in Friday and the province is reminding Albertans to take precautions to prevent forest fires.

“Last fall, we passed important legislation to help deter unsafe behaviour and give our wildland firefighters more tools to keep Albertans and their communities safe,” said Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, in a news release Thursday afternoon. “These strengthened regulations send a clear message that we all share a responsibility to help prevent wildfires.”

Enhancements to the Forest and Prairie Protection Act regulations include new penalties for infractions, including leaving a campfire unattended or burning without a permit. Additionally, there are restrictions on the use of fireworks or exploding targets in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta without written permission from a forest officer, and improvements to flammable debris disposal and other industry-based requirements.

Individuals who knowingly contravene the Forest and Prairie Protection Act by starting a wildfire can be fined up to $100,000 or face imprisonment for up to two years. Industrial users who knowingly contravene the Act and start a wildfire can be fined up to $1 million. Corporations may also face penalties of up to $10,000 per offence per day for less severe industrial-based violations of the Act and regulations.

Effective May 1, officers will be authorized to issue tickets for contraventions like leaving a campfire unattended. Depending on the infraction, individual fines for specific violations could result in tickets ranging from between $172 and $575.

Activities that interfere with the fighting of a wildfire, such as the unauthorized use of drones near a wildfire, are considered more severe offences and will result in an automatic court appearance. Drones recently came under a new set of federal regulations.

In 2016, Alberta wildfire crews fought more than 1,300 fires that consumed more than 600,000 hectares. About 70 per cent of wildfires over the last five years have been linked to human activity.

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