Decision Date: March 25, 2021
Panel: David Bird
Keywords: Wildfire Act – ss. 6(1), 25; Administrative Tribunals Act – s. 16; contravention; cost recovery order; administrative penalty; consent order
J. Sarver Trucking Ltd. (the “Company”) held a timber sale licence in the Peace Region of BC. In early 2016, the Company completed harvesting in a cutblock, and received authorization to burn debris piles at the site. On or about April 8, 2016, the Company’s owner and an associate went to the cutblock to burn some remaining debris piles. After lighting the piles, they remained on site for most of the day and left in the afternoon. Mr. Sarver planned to return to the site the following day, but he did not return.
On April 18, 2016, the Prince George Fire Centre discovered wildfire #880046 (the “Wildfire”). The Wildfire reached a final size of 15,739 hectares. Investigators from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (the “Ministry”) determined that the Wildfire had ignited and spread from burn piles on the Company’s cutblock.
The Manager of the Ministry’s Kamloops Fire Centre determined that the unattended burn piles on the cutblock had caused the Wildfire in contravention of section 6(1) of the Wildfire Act. The Manager ordered the Company to pay the government’s fire suppression costs associated with the Wildfire, totalling almost $12,000,000, and $3,697,908.74 for the value of Crown timber and other forest land resources that were damaged or destroyed as a result of the contravention. The Manager also imposed an administrative penalty of $20,000 against the Company.
The Company appealed the Manager’s determination and order.
Before the appeal was heard, the Company and the Manager reached an agreement to resolve the appeal, by confirming the administrative penalty but significantly reducing the amounts that the Company was ordered to pay for fire suppression costs and damaged or destroyed Crown timber and other forest resources.
By consent of the parties, the Commission ordered the Company to pay $2,961,956.82 for lost Crown forest resources and the government’s fire suppression costs, and pay the administrative penalty of $20,000.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.