Key River cottagers concerned by results of investigation into Parry Sound 33 forest fire

The province is saying very little about its investigation into the cause of the Parry Sound 33 forest fire, other than the fact it is not laying charges. But that isn't good enough for people whose properties were damaged and destroyed this summer.

Province isn't laying charges but is considering civil action to recover firefighting costs

The forest fire known as Parry Sound 33 burned up 11,000 hectares of bush along the Key River south of Sudbury in the summer of 2018. (Dan Leonard/Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)

The province is saying very little about its investigation into the cause of the Parry Sound 33 forest fire, other than the fact it is not laying charges.

But that isn't good enough for people whose properties were damaged and destroyed this summer. 

"I wasn't surprised. Definitely concerned. Maybe a little bit sad," says Lisa Kivinen, co-president of the Key River Area Association.

She represents some of the property owners whose cottages were burnt by the 11-thousand hectare wildfire that saw hundreds evacuated this past summer.

Lisa Kivinen, co-president of the Key River Area Association, has yet to see a copy of investigation report from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. (Dave Seglins/CBC)

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry investigation ruled that a disabled vehicle in a remote area near Henvey Inlet started the fire, but charges will not be laid.

However, the ministry says it is "considering next steps for cost recovery, including possible civil litigation. As such, we are unable to provide additional information."

"The finding doesn't mean that there wasn't any negligence," says Kivinen. 

The ministry has not yet revealed how much it cost to fight the fire, but Kivinen believes that someone needs to pay that bill. 

"I don't believe Ontario taxpayers should be accountable for those costs at all," she says.

Clean-up crews, paid for by windmill developer Pattern Development, were busy at the burnt down camps along the Key River in September cutting down dead trees and clearing away charred debris. (Erik White/CBC)

Kivinen is asking to see a copy of the investigation report and in the meantime, is encouraging members of her association to contact provincial politicians to raise concerns. 

"We want to sensitize them to the destruction of our area, but also we want to highlight that perhaps the standards imposed by the province regarding fire safety need a review," she says.

CBC reported in July allegations from workers building the Henvey Inlet wind farm that a disabled vehicle they were using was where the fire started. 

Henvey Inlet Wind, a partnership between Henvey Inlet First Nation and U.S.-based Pattern Development, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. 

The Timmins 9 forest fire burned up 40,000 hectares of northern Ontario wilderness in 2012. The province sued CN Rail for $38 million for causing that fire. That case is still before the courts. (Christine Rosche/Ministry of Natural Resources/Canadian Press)

Kivinen says the wind farm developers had promised them during the early planning stages for the project that the surrounding environment would be protected.

"We really feel let down," she says.

In response to the findings of the ministry investigation, Henvey Inlet Wind said that it is "grateful to the staff of MNRF for their dedication in investigating the cause of the fire over the past several months. We thank the hundreds of workers in the community who are helping build the wind project, which is expected to be completed this spring."

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has filed lawsuits in the past to recover the costs of fighting a forest fire, most notably the 40-thousand hectare fire known as Timmins 9 from the spring of 2012.

The ministry filed a civil action in 2015 seeking $38 million and that matter is still before the courts. 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca