Forest Fire Priority System Under Fire

Tuesday, April 06, 2004 at 13:00



A northern leader is worried that the province’s new approach to fighting forest fires will spark an increase in man-made fires this summer.


Buffalo Narrows mayor Bobby Woods and other northern mayors are lobbying the provincial government to change how it will determine which fires threaten communities.


In last week’s budget announcement, the government indicated that forest fires around communities and commercial interests would receive the highest priority, but some of the other fires might be allowed to burn.


Woods says mayors have since learned that the province will consider a community threatened if a forest fire is within a 10-kilometre radius of the community.


Woods expects there will be a lot less need for seasonal firefighters from northern communities, and he wonders if some people might be tempted to start fires close to their communities in order to get work this summer.


Woods says a committee struck by Saskatchewan Environment and northern communities has drastically reduced the number of man-made starts in the last decade, and says it would be a shame if a shift in policy reversed that progress.


Woods also worries about the safety of northern communities under this new values-at-risk system.


Woods says this situation is even more unacceptable considering what British Columbia endured last summer.


Environment officials have not been available for comment.