The provincial government increased the fines for improper use of off-road vehicles, in an effort to curb the wildfire risk in B.C.’s backcountry.

“These changes reflect the tougher stand that our government is taking to eliminate unnecessary wildfire risks, encourage compliance, protect communities from harm and help keep British Columbians safe,” said forests minister Doug Donaldson.

The revised regulations require all off-road vehicles to come equipped with a spark arrestor — a small screen installed in an exhaust system to prevent sparks or exhaust residue from exiting the tailpipe.

Most new off-road vehicles are already equipped with a spark arrestor, but older models will have to have them installed if drivers wish to operate the vehicles on Crown land, stated a press release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Penalties for vehicles without a spark arrestor will range from $460 up to $10,000 depending on the location and the wildfire risk at the time of the violation.

If a wildfire starts, the operator could receive a violation ticket fine of $575, an administrative monetary penalty of up to $10,000, or a court fine up to $1,000,000 and/or up to three years in jail. The person responsible could also be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

Tighter restrictions on businesses, utilities

The province took steps to ensure utility companies and businesses operating in the backcountry are held accountable for wildfires.

A new administrative penalty of up to $100,000 was introduced for violations related to utility transmission operations.

“Examples would be when a wildfire is started by a downed power line, or when vegetation near a utility line has not been adequately maintained and a tree falls on an energized line, starting a fire,” stated the press release.

Fines were also introduced for companies which fail to comply with a stop-work order. Businesses face a penalty of up to $10,000 should they continue to engage in high risk activities after the province has issued a stop-work order.

Lastly, three existing fines were increased from $767 to $1,150 for:

  • failing to comply with restricted area requirements;
  • failing to comply with an order restricting an activity or use; and
  • failing to comply with an order to leave a specified area.

All of the changes to wildfire regulations are effective immediately, stated the press release.