Those who start fires should be made to pay

Re: “B.C.’s penalties are too light for causing fires,” column, Sept. 4.

I agree with many of Geoff Johnson’s views on the current fire situation in B.C. However, there’s not much hope in seeing payment of the $37 million ordered in restitution, even with 10 years to do so, by a teenager in Washington for the fire he was responsible for in Oregon.

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The fines in B.C. are far too small for the scope of the crime, a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of firefighting and what’s being done in other jurisdictions.

Has anyone in this province ever been charged with paying the cost of firefighting due to her or his negligence? Not that I’ve heard. It’s time.

Jailing someone, except in the case of loss of life, isn’t likely the best consequence, either.

In addition to witnessing the results of careless human behaviour, as Johnson suggests, what might make an impact is being sentenced to serve on a firefighting crew for the next fire season to see first-hand the devastation caused as well as the efforts required to extinguish wildfires. This approach has been used in the case of drunk driving when the person responsible has to spend time in an emergency department.

Restorative justice might be another approach, with the person responsible actually meeting firefighting crews and people who have lost their homes, and an appropriate consequence being agreed upon.

More education is needed, thought that often falls on deaf ears. What is really needed is action.

Ellie Hallman


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