Prevention key to eliminating forest fires: conservation officer

Cory Hurley
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There are lots things people working in the forestry sector can do to help the Department of Natural Resources reduce the amount of wilderness lost to fires.

Conservation officer Jonathan Foley addresses delegates of the Forestry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Tuesday in Deer Lake.

Jonathan Foley, a conservation officer, says nothing can be more effective than prevention.

Foley addressed delegates of the Forestry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Tuesday at its third annual Health and Safety Symposium in Deer Lake.

There have been 1,209 forest fires in the province in the past 10 years, he said, burning a total of 350,000 hectares.

While the majority of the fires happen on the island, the most area burned is in Labrador.

In the 10-year span, there were 377 fires in Labrador and 832 fires on the island portion of the province. However, fewer than 43,000 hectares of land was burned on the island, Foley said.

During that decade, only 14 fires were caused by industry.

“That is a great number and it only burned 25 hectares,” Foley said. “We could always do better and it is something we are always going to have to work on, but you guys are doing a good job.”

Foley told the delegates if a fire starts they should immediately call the Department of Natural Resources, take action based on the equipment available, take account of all staff and prevent people from entering the area.

In terms of prevention, it is important to have equipment checked regularly, have proper firefighting equipment on standby, make sure staff know where it is and be aware of the fire weather index.

Foley said people sometimes don’t realize they could be held responsible financially for starting a forest fire.

“That could get really expensive,” he said. “If you are dealing with Labrador, like last year, that could be millions of dollars.”

He was asked the particulars of those 14 industrial-caused fires, and Foley said in some cases they were caused by equipment and other times carelessness, but most were determined to be accidental.


The Western Star

Organizations: Forestry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Labrador, Deer Lake.There, Western Star

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