Fire Bans

Res #: 20-02M
Number: 20
Year: 2002
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Environment

Resolution 20-02M

WHEREAS, many municipalities in the Province have experienced extremely dry conditions in the past few years, and have declared drought disaster areas; and 

WHEREAS, there is confusion between The Rural Municipalities Act, 1989 and The Prairie and Forest Fire Act regarding the authority of an RM to establish or enforce a fire ban; and 

WHEREAS, Under Section 7.1(a) of The Prairie and Forest Fire Act, 1982, the municipality may make bylaws for the prevention and protection of property against forest and prairie fires; and  

WHEREAS, Section 7.1(a) of The Prairie and Forest Fire Act, 1982, does not make specific reference to the Municipality’s ability to impose a municipality-wide fire ban including private property; 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that SARM lobby the Provincial Government to amend The Prairie and Forest Fire Act, 1982 to provide municipalities with the authority to establish fire bans.

Response From Honourable Buckley Belanger:

In response to resolution 20 with regard to authority for imposing fire bans under Section 17 (1) of The Prairie and Forest Fires Act, 1982, only the Minister or Director may impose a fire ban outside of cities, towns and villages.

The Act, envisions fire bans as broader-based tools, designed to increase public awareness of wildfire danger and to reduce wildfire risks. Provincial bans on all open fires are imposed only in the most extreme wildfire hazard conditions. Before the province interferes with its citizen's use of fire, a number of conditions must be met to justify the fire ban. Less intrusive measures are applied first, such as canceling burning permits and not issuing new permits until the hazard passes.

A series of fire bans issued by the large number of individual municipalities and provincial government across the province could prove to be very confusing to the general public and people traveling in these areas.

Following the unprecedented fire season of 2002, with large fires and huge costs in municipalities, a review of municipal fire suppression has been commenced by government, with an interdepartmental committee including: Saskatchewan Environment, Government Relations and Aboriginal Affairs, Corrections and Protective Services and Saskatchewan Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization. SARM and SUMA are participating. A report is expected by mid winter of 2003. This resolution from SARM on fire bans will be considered in that review.

In the interim, Rural Municipal councils do have the authority to pass bylaws under Section 7 (1) for areas in their jurisdiction providing that bylaws are not inconsistent or contrary with The Prairie and Forest Fires Act, 1982. A good example of consistent bylaws would be to establish restrictive measures on how and when fires may be started. Burning permit requirements with restrictions developed for permit conditions and specifications for safe burning receptacles, etc. can be developed. An education and prevention program is also integral to increasing public awareness and cooperation.