Canada

Man responsible for B.C. wildfire says he's sorry

The man blamed for one most destructive wildfires in Canadian history says he feels intense guilt.

The man blamed for one of the most destructive wildfires in Canadian history says he feels intense guilt for the damage it did.

"There's no other way to feel. People lost their jobs, they lost their homes, their land was all burnt up," Mike Barre told CBC News.

Barre was fined $3,000 on Nov. 29 for carelessly discarding a cigarette that started the McLure-Barriere forest fire in southwestern British Columbia in August 2003.

The fire obliterated 73 homes in Barriere and Louis Creek, north of Kamloops, and destroyed a sawmill, the region's biggest employer.

What plagues him, he said, is that so much devastation was apparently caused by a single cigarette butt.

"I dropped it in front of me on the path and butted it. ... I didn't butt it deep enough into the ground."

He said the authorities were right to charge him under the B.C. Forest Practices Code. "They have to bring out the message somehow, so that doesn't bother me."

After he was charged, countless people came forward to support him and his family.

"Most people have just treated me phenomenally great," he said, adding that "the ones who suffered the most are the ones who did the most for me."

Pastor Bob Bashor of the Christian Life Assembly said there was a good reason for that support: Barre immediately admitted what he had done and spent months as a volunteer, helping people rebuild their homes and lives.

"If he had something you needed, you had it," Bashor said. "There was nothing too much or too little. He just gave of himself."

Bashor said Barre is a good man who made a bad mistake.

"I blame myself," Barrie said. "I should, right? Forgive myself? I guess the best way to put it is just I've come to terms with it. I can live with it."

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