A British Columbia man has been ordered to pay half a million dollars, half the actual bill, to cover the costs of fighting a wildfire he was responsible for starting. He was originally ordered to pay the full amount but reached an agreement with the government after appealing.
B.C.’s Forest Appeals Commission ordered Brian Cecil Parke to pay the province $500,162.04 for fire suppression costs associated with a blaze that broke out on his property near Pavilion Lake, 75-miles west of Kamloops, reports CBC. Even the reduced amount is still one of the biggest payments ever ordered from an individual in association with the costs of fighting fires.
Prince George Fire Centre manager Les Husband initially ordered Parke to pay the larger amount after finding that he caused the Pavilion Lake fire by failing to contain a controlled fire on his property that he ignited on April 7, 2012. Firefighters spent more than a month containing the 140-hectare blaze.
“Mr. Parke left the fire on April 8th, returning on April 9th to check on the fire, which was still smoldering and then departed without extinguishing the fire,” Husband wrote in the original determination.
B.C.’s Wildfire Act allows residents to start fires on rural property under conditions that include taking certain precautions to make sure the flames don’t spread to the larger forest. “Holdover fires” — those that smolder undetected for a long time — “are a common occurrence even over winter,” Husband wrote in his report. But in this case, Mr. Parke admitted that he did not have a machine guard down to mineral soil and also admitted that when he left the property the fire had not been extinguished but in fact was still smoldering in the middle. Best practice should have been to ensure the fire was completely extinguished.
Husband’s original order contains an itemized breakdown of costs, including nearly $300,000 for hourly wages and $237,732 for helicopter fuel costs and flight costs. Food, transportation, and accommodation for firefighters cost $25,053.