The BC Wildfire Act requires “If a fire starts at, or within 1 km of, the site of the industrial activity, the person carrying out the industrial activity must:
(a) immediately carry out fire control and extinguish the fire, if practicable, (b) continue with fire control for the fire until (i) the fire is extinguished, (ii) it becomes impracticable to continue with fire control, or (iii) an official relieves the person in writing from continuing, (c) as soon as practicable, report the fire as described in section 2, and (d) in accordance with prescribed requirements, rehabilitate the land damaged by fire control carried out by the person.
The ministry’s S100 appears to have become the standard for meeting the above requirement. But that training, which focuses on fundamental fire fighting techniques, may not provide the real decision making skills required of a silviculture supervisor to recognize what is an “impracticable” situation and avoid putting a crew of amateur if not untrained fire fighters in jeopardy.
In fact the S100 training may embolden an unexperienced group dangerously beyond their capabilities according the BC SAFE Silviculture Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC). This concern has prompted SAC to propose drafting a preliminary set of safe operating procedures and best practices around how silviculture crews can meet the expectations of the Act without endangering themselves. The procedures and practices would emphasize proper and accurate reporting of the fire and then define a decision-making process based on a matrix including assessing the fire behaviour, the fuel types, danger class, site characteristics etc.
It may be in some circumstances that the wisest tactic is simply to report the fire and evacuate the crew safely. In other cases the decision may be to stay with the fire. The procedures would then identify the best suppression actions to take considering the crews experience and their available safety and fire fighting equipment. A first draft of the best practice is expected by spring.