British Columbia

B.C. man appeals $861K forest fire bill

A Cariboo-area man who allegedly started a campfire that sparked a forest fire is appealing a $861,356 firefighting bill.

Robert Unger allegedly built a campfire that started a large forest fire

A Cariboo-area man is appealing a massive bill connected to a forest fire.

Robert Unger allegedly built a campfire on land he owned but failed to establish a fuel break.

His land didn't fall within the jurisdiction of any fire department so the Ministry of Forests charged him the full cost of their firefighting efforts — $861,356.

According to the Forest Appeals Commission's website, Unger claims the 2011 ruling is unreasonable and unfair.

The Ministry of Forests wouldn't comment on the penalty.

But Wildfire Management Branch spokesman Kevin Skrepnek says all fires are investigated.

"If someone's found in non-compliance of an open fire prohibition, the base line you're looking at is $345 and if that were to be taken to court it can be quite a bit more than that," he said.

"One human-caused fire is one too many, quite frankly. They're all preventable."

Unger’s lawyer declined comment.

Unger is scheduled to argue his case to the Forest Appeals Commission later this month.

With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor