The fire protection activities of oil and gas operators near Fort St. John are under scrutiny by the Forest Practices Board.

Oil and gas companies in the Lower Beatton area are being audited during the week of Sept. 21 for compliance with the Wildfire Act, the board announced Monday.

The audit will investigate whether or not the operators have completed fire hazard assessments, treated any identified forest fuel hazards, and if they have sufficient fire suppression tools and water delivery systems on active sites, according to a Forest Practices Board press release.

The findings will be compiled in a report, and any companies found to be lacking appropriate fire protection activities will be given a chance to respond.

“If we find that somebody’s not complied with the legislation, then they’ll get a chance to see that, to speak with the auditors . . . in some cases they have information that maybe they didn’t provide, or for whatever reason, hadn’t been provided to the auditors,” explained Darlene Oman, communications officer with the Forest Practices Board.

“It’s to ensure we have a fair process, they get to see what the draft findings and conclusions are, and then to respond to those if they have any other information to provide.”

A final report and recommendations will then be publicly released.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog of sound forest and range practices. They not only audit forest and range practices on public land, but also the appropriateness of government enforcement.

The board conducts about a dozen audits a year, which are randomly selected. Most are focused on forestry activities. This will be the first time they’ve done a Wildfire Act-specific audit on oil and gas companies, according to Oman.

The area of the upcoming audit spans 500,000 hectares, and is surrounded by the Halfway River to the west, the Blueberry River to the north, the Peace River to the south, and the Alberta border to the east.

The report could take anywhere from three months to a year before it’s finalized and made public.