Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rice speaks to need for better forest fire fighting resources and funding

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice
spoke on forest issues on Tuesday
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice outlined some concerns over the Liberal government's approach to funding of forest fire fighting resources on Tuesday.

Speaking as part of the discussion related to Bill 12 the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, Ms. Rice made note of proposed changes in penalties for those that ignore fire bans.

The bill under consideration proposes penalties for ignoring fire bans that will rise to $1,150 from the current $345, with the proposed fine for failing to report a fire to increase to $383 from the current $115.

The MLA also offered up some observations related to the nature of Timber Sales licences and the impact that Bill 12 may have on the Great Bear Rainforest Act and the Wildlife Act.  She also noted that recreational users in the province's forests are also creating issues for those that fight forest fires in British Columbia, calling attention to an increased use of drones and how an information program may be required to alert residents and visitors to the dangers they pose to fire fighters by their recreational activities.

We had — as many other people mentioned earlier in the House today, a record number of forest fires last summer. We had the new situation of drones actually interfering with firefighting of fires, which posed problems of actually grounding the firefighting equipment or aircraft from doing their job. So that was a big problem. 

With the increased use and affordability and availability of drones, I think this could possibly pose future problems, expanding of future problems, in our province. So informing the public of the risks and how their recreational activities may impede forest fighting is a good thing to do. 

Towards the theme of fighting forest fires, Ms. Rice offered up a testimony to the dangers of forest fire conditions and the need for better budgeting by the province on that issue.

For background to the topic she called the attention of the Legislature to the Port Edward fire of last July, offering her thanks for the efforts of  local firefighters during that incident.

I would like to take the opportunity to mention that the amount budgeted annually for firefighting has been wholly inadequate. It's interesting to note that each subsequent year the amount spent and the amount budgeted are hugely ….  There are huge discrepancies in between. 

We can essentially plan for implementing more resources to fight fires. However, this government doesn't do so in their budget. Again, just mentioning the record number of forest fires last year. I live in one of the rainiest or wettest communities in the province, in Prince Rupert, in the constituency of North Coast. 

I was pretty blown away, in my almost 20 years of living in this area, experiencing a local forest fire in the coastal temperate rainforest. We had phenomenal firefighting services deployed. I must congratulate all our local firefighters and local people who stepped up to mitigate this problem just within Port Edward's boundaries. I don't recall ever experiencing a forest fire in such proximity to my local constituents, so I was very pleased that this was mitigated very quickly and effectively.

The full contribution to the discussion can be found as part of the Tuesday Afternoon House Video Archive, Ms. Rice's thoughts are presented at the 1550 mark.

The text of her notes can also be reviewed from the Legislature Minutes found here.

For more items related to the work of the North Coast MLA see our archive page here.

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