Calgary

$1M fine proposed for careless fire starters in Alberta

The province’s forestry minister says the current $5,000 penalty for individuals and businesses who carelessly start blazes is ‘not steep enough’ and he wants the government to increase the maximum fine to $1 million.

$5,000 penalty for individuals and corporations ‘not steep enough,’ says forestry minister

Current maximum fines of $5,000 for burning an outdoor fire without due care and attention are too low, according to Alberta's minister of forestry. (Terry Reith/CBC)

It will likely be months before investigators narrow down the exact cause of the northern Alberta wildfires, which are still burning strong two weeks after chasing tens of thousands of residents out of Fort McMurray.

And while the province's minister of forestry won't flat out say it was human error that ignited the inferno, he's not ruling it out.

"We're seeing a few lightning strikes, but for the most part, there's only one other cause and that's human cause," Oneil Carlier told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

"Whether it's by accident or whatever that might be — that is a large concern."

So much so, that he supports the idea of slapping fire starters with much higher fines.

  • Should the fines for starting wildfires in Alberta be raised from $5,000 to $100,000 for individuals and $1 million for corporations? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Right now, the maximum penalty for burning an outdoor fire without due care and attention is $5,000 for individuals and corporations.

Carlier said that's "not steep enough" and he wants the fine raised 200-fold for a corporation to a maximum of $1 million.

He also wants to see the penalty for an individual who starts a wildfire to increase to a maximum of $100,000.

"It's a good deterrent," said Carlier. "I think that it's resonating with people. I think Albertans want to be safe, they want to keep themselves safe, their communities, their fellow citizens."

Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier wants to slap wildfire starters with higher fines. (CBC)

Forest act under review

All penalties for starting a wildfire are spelled out in Alberta's Forest and Prairie Protection Act, which is currently under review by the provincial government.

"The courts deemed these fine levels to be inadequate to deal with the scale and impact of the offence," stated a summary of the review published in February.

According to the National Fire Database, about half of the 1,200 fires reported on average in Alberta every year are caused by humans. Lightning is the second-leading cause.

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