Province creates harsher penalties to curb wildfires

Off-road vehicle users who start fires could be fined up to $1 million plus firefighting costs

Possible payment of firefighting costs, up to $1 million court fines and up to three years in jail — the province means business when it comes to off-road vehicle users who start wildfires.

Following a historically bad fire season last summer, the province is ramping up penalties to curb wildfires and what it considers to be irresponsible off-road vehicle use.

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“These changes reflect the tougher stand that our government is taking to eliminate unnecessary wildfire risks, encourage compliance, protect communities from harm and help keep British Columbians safe,” said Forests Minister Doug Donaldson in a news release.

Spark arrestors are now required for off-road vehicles that go on Crown land.

A spark arrestor is a small screen or other device that is installed in an exhaust system to stop sparks or other exhaust residue from exiting the tailpipe.

The province could hit violators with a $460 ticket or an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 if an off-road vehicle without a spark arrestor is operating at a time or place where there is a risk of a wildfire starting.

If a wildfire starts, the operator could receive a violation ticket fine of $575, an administrative monetary penalty of up to $10,000, or a court fine up to $1 million and/or up to three years in jail.

The person responsible could also be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

Stiffer penalties penalties are also being implemented for violations related to utility transmission operations.

Examples would be when a wildfire is started by a downed power line, or when vegetation near a utility line has not been adequately maintained and a tree falls on an energized line, starting a fire.

Wildfire regulations have been amended to add a new administrative monetary penalty up to $100,000 in such cases.

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