By Robert Mackenzie
Published Aug. 1 2017
More than a quarter of all staff from Haliburton’s fire management services have been sent out to British Columbia to aid the ongoing wildfires in the province.
Shayne McCool the northeast region fire information officer for Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told the Echo that 24 Haliburton fire rangers and support staff have been sent out west so far.
“There’s a big demand for personnel in British Columbia with the situation they’re in” he said.
The 24 Haliburton staff are part of 393 fire staff from Ontario that have been sent to support the province in the past few weeks. Another 140 Ontario staff who were sent out west earlier in the month returned to their home province July 27.
According to McCool B.C. will decide to use the officers from Haliburton and Ontario in the various roles as required. McCool said Ontario fire rangers are particularly skilled at moving water from large bodies to areas of need.
Along with staff Ontario has also provided B.C. with 10000 lengths of fire hose and more than 200 pump kits.
And while wildfires rage on in B.C. the Ontario MNRF announced July 7 their decision to increase the maximum fines to individuals and corporations who start forest fires under the Forest Fires Prevention Act.
Individuals in the province who are found to have started a forest fire can now be fined as much as $25000 while corporations at fault can be penalized as much as $500000. Prior to the announcement the maximum fine for individuals which hadn’t been increased since 1968 was $1000.
In an email MNRF spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said “It was felt that the previous maximum fine was not a suitable deterrent and didn’t allow the courts flexibility in awarding higher fines given the potential costs to fight forest fires and the damage they cause.”
Though the fines have just been increased forest fires in Ontario have dropped considerably this fire season compared to years past. According to the MNRF 191 forest fires have been started this season compared to 477 in 2016 and an average of 525 over the past 10 years.
While Kowalski said the increased fines were part of a planned update to the Forest Fires Prevention Act she added that the recent wildfires in B.C. and last year’s fires in Fort McMurray provided additional reasons to avoid starting wildfires. “Recent events such as those in B.C. and Alberta serve as a reminder to all that we need to do all we can to prevent the fires from starting” she said.