Decision Date: April 18, 2018
Panel: Alan Andison
Keywords: Wildfire Act – s. 25; Wildfire Regulation – s. 31; wildfire; cost recovery order; fire suppression costs; consent order
Deborah Mondini appealed an order issued in January 2017 by the Deputy Fire Centre Manager (the “Manager”), Northwest Fire Centre, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (the “Ministry”).
On the evening of May 23, 2015, Ms. Mondini reported to the Ministry that a wildfire was burning on her property, located approximately 25 km southwest of Rossland, BC. The Rossland Fire Department responded with 17 firefighters, two fire trucks, and two water trucks. However, they requested aerial firefighting support from the Ministry. The Ministry dispatched an air tanker to drop fire retardant on the fire that evening. The next morning, the Ministry dispatched a helicopter and a firefighting crew to attend the fire. The Rossland Fire Department also returned to the site in the morning. The fire was contained that evening, and was declared out by the evening of May 25, 2018. The fire was 2 hectares in size.
On May 24, 2015, Ministry investigators attended the site to determine the fire’s cause and origin. The investigators determined that the wildfire likely originated from a debris pile that Ms. Mondini had ignited on May 2, 2015. She admitted igniting the debris pile, but stated that she had patrolled the fire and thought it was out.
The Manager determined that the debris pile lit by Ms. Mondini on May 2 was the likely cause of the wildfire. The Manager found that the debris could have remained smouldering underground and reignited by May 23, due to unusually warm and dry weather during May. The Manager ordered Ms. Mondini to pay the Ministry’s fire suppression costs totalling $61,639.43 under section 25 of the Wildfire Act and section 31 of the Wildfire Regulation.
Ms. Mondini appealed the order to pay the Ministry’s fire suppression costs. She submitted that she should not be held responsible for the Ministry’s fire suppression costs because the situation could have been avoided if the Rossland Fire Department had responded to the fire with a reasonable effort, rather than waiting for the Ministry to extinguish the fire. She submitted that they set up two water tanks but did not attempt to fight the fire. She also submitted that there was rain in the days following the debris pile burning on May 2, 2015, and she had continued to monitor the area for any signs of smoke.
Before the appeal was heard by the Commission, the parties negotiated an agreement to resolve the matter. By consent of the parties, the Commission ordered that the appeal was allowed, with no costs payable by either party.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.