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Legisaltive Report (23 August 2006)

Legislative Report

23 August 2006

'Let It Burn' Policy Needs Review

The massive Noel forest fire that burned for most of June came within 900 metres of the new $13 million Stony Rapids hospital. This fire could have been controlled sooner, had it not been for the NDP government’s ‘let it burn’ policy.
Under the current policy, fire fighting does not begin unless a fire is 20 kilometres from a community. The Noel fire started 32 kilometres away from Stony Rapids and approximately halfway between Stony Rapids and Black Lake. It spread quickly and by the time it reached the 20 kilometre zone, the smoke was too thick to bring in air bombers. The community of Stony Rapids was then evacuated to Black Lake.
The community worked hard to divert the fire, and thankfully, no one was hurt or no buildings were lost. However, because of the NDP’s ill-advised policy the story could have had a different, more tragic, outcome.
This summer, the Saskatchewan Party consulted with First Nations, community leaders and individuals with expertise in fire fighting. The consensus is that a 20 kilometre response zone is too narrow. In these matters, it is best to rely on the wisdom of local people who have lived in these areas for generations. And these people have witnessed many fires in their lives and know that a fire can easily travel 20 kilometres in a day once it gets in the forest canopy.
People in Stony Rapids believe that if the Noel fire had been dealt with sooner, residents would not have been forced to flee their community.
Based on this, the Official Opposition Saskatchewan Party is calling on the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly to review the following:
  • Review the NDP government’s current ‘let it burn’ policy
  • Review the government’s response to the fire
  • Review the evacuation procedures utilized
  • Review the costs of fighting the fire and evacuations versus dealing with the fire earlier.
Furthermore, the Opposition would like the committee to hear from witnesses in the community and consult with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
Fire is a natural part of forest renewal. No one argues that some fires must be allowed to burn. However, the current NDP policy is putting lives at risk. It must be reviewed.

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