+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 18-16F

Provincial Responsibility for Fire Costs on Occupied Public Lands

Date:
October 26, 2016
Expiry Date:
November 30, 2019
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
Thorhild County
District:
3 - Pembina River
Year:
2016
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Environment
Status:
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS the Government of Alberta is responsible for the management and control of all occupied and unoccupied public lands; and

 WHEREAS municipalities do not distinguish its practice and procedures on fighting a fire on occupied or unoccupied public lands; and

 WHEREAS some occupied lands are not being utilized to their full potential and become a fire hazard within the municipality; and

 WHEREAS municipalities are faced with substantial expenses for firefighting resources and are often challenged with limited operating and capital budgets; and

 WHEREAS Section 7 of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act outlines that the municipality is responsible for fighting and controlling all fires within the boundaries of the municipality; and

 WHEREAS Section 8 of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act stipulates that the Province is not obligated to reimburse a municipality for money spent on controlling fires on any land, however, may reimburse the municipality for any part of the costs of controlling a fire on unoccupied public lands;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta amend Section 8 of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act by including occupied public lands to enable the reimbursement of firefighting costs on those lands.

Member Background:

Section 8 of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act reads as follows:

The Minister is not obligated to reimburse a municipal district for any money spent by it in controlling or extinguishing a fire on any land but the Minister may, with the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, reimburse the council of a municipal district for any part of the costs and expenses in controlling or extinguishing a fire on unoccupied public land.

The Government of Alberta may reimburse municipalities for the cost of firefighting on unoccupied lands, meaning not leased public lands and according to Section 8 of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act will not reimburse municipalities for costs on occupied lands, meaning leased public lands. Thorhild County does not differentiate the designation of these lands when it undertakes the responsibility for firefighting and relevant expenses.  Firefighting equipment, manpower and resources for firefighting are very costly and have a significant impact on the municipality’s capital and operating budget.

Over the last few years, Thorhild County has experienced several large fires on occupied public lands and the cost and expense to suppress those fires were very substantial.  The County is very concerned that future costs relating to firefighting on occupied public lands would be detrimental to its financial stability.

RMA Background:

9-14F: Fire Department Response to Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Calls

 THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Alberta Health Services (AHS) provide compensation to municipalities when fire departments are dispatched to respond to emergency calls by the Emergency Medical System 911 dispatcher;

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that an independent review of Alberta 911 procedures takes place to ensure the 911 system is operating efficiently between police, fire, and emergency medical services.

DEVELOPMENTS: The government response provides no indication that compensation will be provided to municipalities when fire departments are dispatched to respond to emergency calls by the Emergency Medical System 911 dispatcher. Therefore, this resolution has a status of Intent Not Met. The AAMDC will continue to advocate for an independent review of Alberta’s 911 system.

Government Response:

Agriculture and Forestry:  There are two programs available to municipalities outside the Forest Protection Area (FPA) to assist with wildfire suppression costs incurred on public and private land.

  • Program 1: The Municipal Wildfire Assistance Program is administered by Alberta Municipal Affairs (MA) to provide financial support to municipalities for extraordinary wildfire suppression costs. This program may reimburse municipalities up to 75 per cent of their total wildfire suppression costs incurred on occupied public land and freehold/private land.
  • Program 2: Through Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF), municipalities can apply to the Minister for reimbursement of 100 per cent of their wildfire suppression costs incurred on unoccupied public land.

Section 8(1) of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act states that the Minister may reimburse a municipality for these costs. The Minister is not obligated to reimburse a municipality.

AF has entered into Mutual Aid Resource Sharing Agreements with many municipalities throughout Alberta. These agreements confirm roles and responsibilities for wildfire management inside and outside the FPA, as well as outline fees for service for the agencies to support each other with wildfire suppression, on a full cost recovery basis.

It is standard practice for AF to invoice municipalities for wildfire suppression costs incurred when assisting them outside the FPA. It is standard practice for AF to pay municipalities for their costs assisting the department with wildfire suppression activities inside the FPA.

MA and AF continue to work with municipalities to support wildfire management initiatives outside the FPA.

Development:

The Government of Alberta response indicates that because existing mechanisms allow municipalities to apply for partial reimbursement of wildfire suppression costs on occupied lands through the Municipal Wildfire Assistance Program. The AAMDC is concerned that this program does not guarantee municipalities reimbursement, and only reimburses up to 75% of their costs. As the resolution requests an amendment to provide municipalities with assurances that they will have these costs reimbursed, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.

Provincial Ministries:
Agriculture and Forestry
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