Decision Date: January 13, 2010
Panel: Alan Andison
Keywords: Wildfire Regulation – ss. 6(3)(b)(ii), 33; consent order; forest fire; limitation period
Solana Consultant & Investment Corp. (“Solana”) appealed an order issued by the Fire Centre Manager, Southeast Fire Centre, Ministry of Forests and Range, that Solana had contravened section 6(3)(b) of the Wildfire Regulation by carrying out a high risk activity when there was a risk of a forest fire starting or spreading, without having an adequate fire suppression system at the activity site.
The fire occurred on August 16, 2007, and started in a cut block where Solana was doing mechanical site preparation with an excavator. The conditions at the site were dry and hot. The tracks and/or scarification head of the excavator struck rocks, causing hot metal fragments to ignite fine dry fuels. The fire suppression system on site consisted of one five-gallon hand pump tank with water, three ten-pound chemical fire extinguishers, one five-pound chemical fire extinguisher, and two shovels. The machine operator noticed the fire, and he attempted to report it to four different offices of the Ministry, without success. He attempted to build a fire guard to control the fire, until Ministry air tankers arrived. The fire eventually burned approximately 190.2 hectares of immature forest. The Ministry estimated that the net loss of Crown stumpage revenues due to the damage caused by the fire was $93,060.96, after recovery through salvage logging. The Province did not seek to recover its fire suppression costs from Solana.
The Fire Centre Manager found that Solana was liable for the contravention and had not established the defence of due diligence. He ordered Solana to pay an administrative penalty of $5,000.
Solana appealed the order on the grounds that it had followed industry standards, and had adequate fire suppression equipment on site at the time of the fire. Solana also argued that the Ministry’s slow response time to the fire contributed to the fire spreading rapidly.
Before the appeals were heard, the parties reached an agreement to settle the appeal. Specifically, the Province acknowledged that the facts which led to the order against Solana came to the attention of a Ministry official on August 16, 2007, but the Fire Centre Manager’s order was not issued until August 19, 2009, which is in excess of the two-year limitation period in section 33 of the Wildfire Act. Consequently, by consent of the parties, the Commission rescinded the order against Solana.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.