As the days get hotter and drier, the province is reminding Albertans that new legislation aimed at stopping reckless behaviours that could start wildfires includes fines of up to $1 million and even jail time.
The changes to the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, which were announced in October, will take effect tomorrow, March 31.
Under the new legislation, individuals who refuse to follow orders related to preventing forest fires face a maximum fine of $100,000 or two years imprisonment if the actions lead to a wildfire. These actions could include ignoring a fire ban or abandoning a campfire.
Corporations could also be fined up to $10,000 per offence per day for less severe industrial offences, such as not having proper firefighting equipment on site or a suitable wildfire plan.
Industrial users who knowingly ignore the legislation could face fines as high as $1 million.
In addition to any fines, courts may order an individual or corporation to reimburse firefighting costs.
“These strengthened regulations send a clear message that we all share a responsibility to help prevent wildfires,” said Oneil Carlier, Alberta’s agriculture and forestry minister, in a Thursday afternoon statement.
Starting May 1, officers will be authorized to issue tickets for contraventions, such as leaving a campfire unattended. Depending on the infraction, individual fines for specific violations could result in tickets ranging from between $172 and $575.
Interfering with wildfire fighting activities, such as flying drones near a fire without authorization, are considered more severe offences and will result in an automatic court appearance.
Other amendments also include restrictions on fireworks or exploding targets within Alberta’s forest protection areas, and updated regulations on disposing flammable debris.
Approximately 70 per cent of wildfires in the last five years have been linked to human activity. According to Carlier’s ministry, wildfire crews fought more than 1,300 fires in 2016, including the Fort McMurray fire.