© Cory Hurley
Conservation officer Jonathan Foley addresses delegates of the Forestry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador onTuesday, April 15, 2014 in Deer Lake.
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.
Jonathan Foley, a conservation officer II, says nothing can be more effective than prevention.
He 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 fires in the province over 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, less than 43,000 hectares of land was burned on the island, he 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.”
The conservation officer 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 in the public 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 sometimes people 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 in nature.