WHEREAS the Prairie Protection Act Section 7(1) places the responsibility for fighting and controlling all fires within the boundaries of the municipality on the municipal district, this includes occupied public lands; and
WHEREAS occupied public lands are often in areas with limited access, and municipal fire fighting units cannot effectively get to the site of fires to control or extinguish them; and
WHEREAS Alberta Sustainable Resource Development has the fire fighting resources to control or extinguish fires in remote and topographically challenging terrain;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to amend the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, Section 7(1), by excluding fighting and controlling fires within occupied public lands from the responsibility of municipalities.
Occupied public lands are under the control of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. Lease holders are required to allow access to these properties. Accidental fires occur when recreational or other users fail to extinguish fires or dispose of cigar/cigarette butts properly and fire control and extinguishing services are required.
Occupied public lands are often in areas with limited access so the fires cannot be reached effectively with traditional municipal fire fighting equipment. As Sustainable Resource Development owns and has access through private contractors to equipment and fire fighting resources to control and extinguish fires in remote and topographically challenging locations the Forest and Prairie Protection Act Section 7(1) should exclude fighting and controlling fires on occupied public lands from the responsibility of the municipal district.
Uncontrolled fires on public land need to be extinguished and when the municipality cannot respond Sustainable Resource Development will step in to ensure the fire is extinguished; removing areas that cannot be effectively served by municipal fire fighting services from municipalities duty to protect will eliminate the time required to activate mutual aid and reduce the loss of valuable timber and damage to wildlife habitat.
The AAMDC has no current resolutions directly related to this issue.
Sustainable Resource Development:
This resolution proposes fundamental changes in firefighting responsibilities outside the Forest Protection Area. Section 7 of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act is clear in placing the responsibility “for controlling and fighting all fires” with a municipality, within their boundaries outside the Forest Protection Area.
The proposal in this resolution would make municipalities no longer responsible for extinguishing fires on occupied public lands.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency cannot support the proposal in this resolution. The resolution appears to assume that all fires on occupied public lands are in forests or grassy areas. This is not the case. Occupied public lands often have commercial and residential developments. The Government of Alberta simply does not have the capacity to fight structural fires safely or provide immediate emergency response services.
If rural municipalities wish to recover the cost of wild land firefighting on occupied
public lands, there is a process already in place to have these lands designated as a Forest Protection Area.
Alberta Municipal Affairs responded to this resolution by noting that the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) cannot support the this resolution because the Government of Alberta does not have the capacity to fight structural fires safely. To clarify intent as it relates to this issue, the AAMDC membership endorsed resolution 12-10S at the Spring 2010 Convention which noted that the request was specific for controlling “non-strucutral fires within occupied public lands.” Updates on 12-10S are available in this document.