Are Burns Lake logging industry workers safe?

Local resident says logging operations should have ceased due to fire hazard rating extreme.

Burns Lake resident Colleen Simmons says she is concerned for the safety of her husband who has been logging in the Babine Lake area.

According to Simmons, her husband has been called back to work even though the fire danger rating in the area has been classified as “high” and “extreme.”

“There seems to be a lack of common sense when it comes to the volatility of the bush in these extreme heat conditions,” she said. “People think they can put out a fire if they inadvertently start one; I am very concerned about my husband’s safety in the bush.”

Simmons said that, a few days ago, a processor machine sparked a fire in the Lake Babine area.

“They [logging workers] managed to get the fire out before the initial fire attack crew got there,” she said. “They had to spend the night to make sure the fire didn’t flare up again.”

Due to the fire hazard of operating machinery in such dry conditions, Simmons believes logging operations in the area should have been ceased since July 1.

Northwest Fire Centre official Olivia Pojar explained that under the wildfire regulation, high risk activities must cease only after three consecutive days of an “extreme” fire danger rating.

The local resident says this rule is not enough to protect workers.

Meanwhile, Simmons said her husband won’t be going back to work until the fire danger rating has been reduced.

“It’s one thing to fight a fire that was started by lightning, but definitely another when it’s caused by lack of common sense,” she added.

From July 6 to 10, Burns Lake had five consecutive days of extreme fire danger rating. After three consecutive days of a danger class rating of “extreme,” industry operators must cease all high risk activities for the entire day until weather conditions change in a specific way. On July 11 and 12, the fire danger rating was reduced to high.

Pojar explained that industry operators have specific legal obligations under the Wildfire Act and Regulation with respect to fire use, fire prevention and fire control. According to Pojar, ultimately it is their responsibility to ensure safety.

“Industry operators are responsible for ensuring their own compliance with the Wildfire Act and Regulation,” she said. “Thus, you would have to question the individual industry operators in regards to whether or not they were performing high risk activities and whether or not these high risk activities were ceased during the past week.”

Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations ensure logging companies stay in compliance of the wild fire act.

 

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