Decision Date: April 13, 2018
Panel: Alan Andison
Keywords: Wildfire Act – s. 25; Wildfire Regulation – s. 31; wildfire; cost recovery order; fire suppression costs; consent order
Stephen Rappard appealed an order issued in June 2017 by the Deputy Fire Centre Manager (the “Manager”), Prince George Fire Centre, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (the “Ministry”).
On the afternoon of May 21, 2015, the Ministry received a report of a wildfire near Albas Provincial Park, north of Sicamous, BC. Mr. Rappard’s house was within one kilometre of the fire. Within a few minutes of the fire being reported, the Ministry dispatched an air tanker to drop fire retardant on the fire, due to a house being in close proximity. Less than one hour after the fire was reported, the Ministry also dispatched a rappel initial attack firefighting crew to attend the fire. On the morning of May 22, 2015, a Ministry unit crews was also dispatched to the fire. On the afternoon of May 22, 2015, the Ministry firefighting crews departed from the fire, which was 0.5 hectares in size.
Also, on May 22, 2015, Ministry investigators attended the site to determine the fire’s cause and origin. Mr. Rappard stated to investigators that he had ignited a slash pile on his property on May 20, 2015. The investigators determined that the wildfire originated from the slash pile that Mr. Rappard had ignited.
The Manager determined that open fires were prohibited in the area when Mr. Rappard lit the slash pile, and he had caused the wildfire. The Manager ordered Mr. Rappard to pay the Ministry’s fire suppression costs totalling $38,788.86 under section 25 of the Wildfire Act and section 31 of the Wildfire Regulation.
Mr. Rappard appealed the order to pay the Ministry’s fire suppression costs, which he submitted was excessive and punitive. He also submitted that the evidence showed that the fire was fully contained by the evening of May 21, 2015, and there was no need to dispatch the unit crew to the fire on May 22, 2015.
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 determination was varied, and the amount of fire suppression costs was reduced to $28,002.01.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed, in part.