Opinion Column

Williams Lake fireworks fine should be bigger

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

(Photo_Concepts/Getty Images)

(Photo_Concepts/Getty Images)

Last weekend, a 34-year-old Williams Lake man celebrated the lifting of an evacuation order and being able to return home by setting off fireworks in what are still extremely hot, dry and fire-prone conditions. Thankfully, the RCMP were quickly alerted, arrested the intoxicated man and later fined him just over $1,000 for allegedly dropping, releasing or mishandling a burning substance, as well as for failing to comply with high risk activity restrictions under the provincial B.C. Wildfire Act.

But this man did more than drop or release a burning substance; he lit fireworks so they would explode into the sky. The fine for such carelessness should be higher.

"It is careless acts such as this that have the real potential to trigger even more interface wildfires in the area," said Cpl. Jesse O'Donaghey in a news release.

"Had this man's actions been overlooked, the outcome could have been dire for the entire community," the release said.

So far, wildfires in B.C. have burned an area of land that is larger than all of Prince Edward Island. Costs for fighting the fires so far have been estimated at $230-million and many fires are still blazing. If this man’s careless drunken actions had started another wildfire – especially in a populated area like Williams Lake whose residents had just been given the all clear to return home, the human cost and the financial toll would have been devastating.

$1,000 seems like far too small a sum to deter dangerous actions like this in the future. People who knowingly put others in their community at risk should have to cough up a lot more. According to the BC government website, “On average 40% of wildfires in British Columbia are person-caused by activities such as open burning, the use of engines or vehicles, dropping burning substances such as cigarettes, or any number of other human-related activities that can create a spark or a heat source sufficient to ignite a wildfire.” If we want to change human activity, we need to attach a heftier consequence.

We’ll still have to fight 60% of those naturally caused wildfires but if we can whittle down that percentage that’s human caused, that’s quite an important place to start.