Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson issued the following statement today in response to concerns expressed by the Heiltsuk First Nation with regard to provincial response to a wildfire on Denny Island:
“The provincial government, including the BC Wildfire Service, considers public safety its top priority. That is why the BC Wildfire Service has a provincial duty officer on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“The provincial duty officer was made aware of a fire on Denny Island via a phone call he received on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 1 a.m. He immediately notified the Heiltsuk First Nation, the Bella Bella fire chief and the RCMP to gain more information about the fire. The RCMP dispatched a boat to take a closer look. The duty officer also subsequently engaged with the power company, BC Ferries and the Coast Guard.
“He remained in constant contact with the Heiltsuk First Nation and agencies over the weekend. The wildfire is determined to have been caused by downed power lines from the windstorm. The wildfire is currently burning at a low intensity and is not threatening any homes. The power company has not indicated any concerns with potential damage to its poles.
“BC Wildfire Service took an overview flight of the fire site this afternoon. There was no smoke visible. The fire was contained to the power line right-of-way.
“While Emergency Management BC is prepared to offer evacuation support if it were necessary, no requests for assistance have been, or are expected to be made by the Heiltsuk or the Central Coast Regional District for this event given its limited consequence.
“February presents less vulnerable weather conditions than hot dry summers would to a wildfire burning outside a community. In this case, the small fire, its location and the winter weather conditions are such that it would not prompt evacuation alerts; there are no people, homes or other infrastructure deemed at risk.
“During the winter months, the BC Wildfire Service is not fully staffed up and it is not feasible to have crews on standby all year-round. I am confident that the BC Wildfire Service acted appropriately. The BC Wildfire Service will continue to monitor the situation and stay in close contact with the Heiltsuk to ensure public safety.”