British Columbia

Rock Creek wildfire culprit could be on hook for 'millions,' says MLA Mike Morris

The Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources says whoever started the devastating Rock Creek wildfire could be liable for "the total cost of fighting the fire."

MLA Mike Morris is tasked with reviewing fire penalties and says they could double or even triple

The province of B.C. plans to increase penalties for starting forest fires and breaking campfire bans. (BC Wildfire Service/Reuters)

If B.C. finds out who started the devastating Rock Creek wildfire, the culprit could be on the hook for "millions of dollars," says the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources.

Officials are looking for a video rumoured to show the massive wildfire, which ripped through the small community, destroying 30 homes so far, was sparked by a flicked cigarette.

"They would be facing a fine of significant proportions, probably up to about $10,000 depending on the circumstances around that," said Mike Morris, who is also MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie.

​"They could also be held responsible for the total cost of fighting the fire as well, which of course is in the millions of dollars."

Fire penalties under review

Morris has been tasked with reviewing the penalties for starting fires or breaking campfire bans.

The current fines include $115 for failing to report a fire, $173 for dropping, releasing or mishandling a burning substance such as a cigarette, and $345 for violating a campfire ban.

"Somebody goes out and spends that kind of money on a drone, they can obviously spend a few bucks on a fine. That isn't a deterrent."

Fire penalties could triple

Mike Morris is the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie. (John Yanyshyn)
Morris said he plans to introduce penalties that will be "at least" double or triple those figures.

"If somebody is disobeying a campfire ban, which is done on a daily basis ... we need something to deter people from doing that, because you never know which campfire is going to cause that massive multimillion-dollar forest fire.

"We have to realize of course that men and women put their lives at risk to fight these fires."

The province has suggested that drivers who are caught flicking their cigarette butts out the window could also have their cars impounded. 

"That's really hard to prove, but more and more authorities will be relying on social media as an investigative aid to help them out. If we can do that two or three times, it'll get their attention."

Morris also said he will review the Wildfire Act to make sure it can be interpreted to incorporate modern issues, including drone regulations.

To hear the full interview with MLA Mike Morris, listen to the audio labelled: MLA Mike Morris on new penalties for fire starters. 


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