250 News - Your News, Your Views, Now

October 28, 2017 3:22 am

Flick your butt out the window, possibly lose your car

Friday, July 17, 2015 @ 3:45 AM

By Mike Morris
Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

This wildfire season has been one of the most challenging in recent memory.

As of July 14, fire crews have responded to 1,083 fires throughout the province – compared to 523 at the same time a year ago. Of those fires, we know over one-third are human caused. That’s 375 fires, leading to an estimated 43,718 hectares going up in flames.

We must send a clear message to those that carelessly start wildfires that their behaviour will not be tolerated. That’s why the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has asked me to take a look across government at the current structure of fines and penalties for people who cause wildfires, and consider new ways to crack down on those careless acts.

Should we double the fine for failing to extinguish a campfire? Should we ban those who break campfire bans from using our provincial parks? Should we impound the vehicles of those who flick lit cigarette butts from their car windows? These are serious actions, but I think we need to at least consider them to send the message that enough is enough.

The vast majority of British Columbians are respectful, careful people who help protect our forests from devastating wildfires. But there are still too many individuals who haven’t heard the message and continue to make careless decisions that lead to wildfires.

As a former law enforcement officer, I’m fully aware of the challenges to enforce these laws and the need to raise awareness to end these destructive acts. It’s often said that you can’t legislate against stupidity, but if exploring the idea of harsher penalties for careless acts means more people get the message, we must do it.

Naturally occurring fires from sources like lightning are difficult enough for our dedicated firefighters to handle. If we’re going to continue to ask them to put their lives on the line to keep people and property safe, we need to do everything we can to end behaviours that lead to needless wildfires.


Having started my career off as a forest fire fighter almost all the fires I attended were human caused over my 12 years fighting fires. Personally I feel smokers who toss butts deserve to pay dearly if caught and it wouldn’t hurt me one bit to see them lose their license or vehicle or both

People who are careless with camp or yard fires should pay hefty fines or face jail time

Can you give us a list of every known cause of forest fires in BC?

I don’t know but it sounds like pick on the smokers again. I would like to know how many fires have started at the roadsides, either highway or backroads.
Then, how many of these could be directly attributed to cigarettes, cigars or what have you?
What kind of a percentage would this make up? Are there any at all?

Just seriously wondering, that’s all.
Maybe the same kind of penalties should apply to people who leave bottles where they could start a fire too. Same thing.
I think far more are started by people who don’t properly extinguish their campfires or start fires where they shouldn’t.

We know for sure that distracted and impaired driving causes accidents, that’s why the penalties are high. There is a direct correlation.

But cigarette butts? Are they really a primary cause of fires?

Like I said, just seriously wondering, that’s all.

Mike Morris and the flicker flame brigade strikes again.Wow real good work Mike. YOU and yours truly do belong in the eternal hall of the flameout.

I guess, no more mooning other drivers.

Mike Morris is not ‘picking on smokers’ and yes, smokers DO cause many fires, that is a fact. Do some research, don’t be afraid to enlighten yourself.

If Give more and ice actually read the entire letter instead of just focusing on one element of it, they would have noted that it talks about careless or wilful acts, including campfires not properly extinguished and people who ignore campfire bans.

Never ceases to amaze me …..

Let’s just talk about one that was for sure. The Barierre fire was caused by a cigarette and took out a Tolko mill and costed a lot of people jobs and money. It’s not about picking on smokers, it’s about holding irresponsible people accountable for ill advised decisions. It applies to people that don’t manage their campfires too!

Give more: This IS NOT about picking on smokers, IT IS about picking on smokers who throw out their ‘live’ butts that can start fires. IOW, irresponsible smokers! Do you have a problem with that????

You’d think we’d be able to shame people out of throwing cigarettes out of vehicles. I mean, what could be stupider than just tossing a burning object out into a potentially highly flammable area? I wonder if an advertising campaign would help?

(To answer my own question, a gas station attendant smoking while pumping gas is probably stupider. Yes, I’ve seen that.)

What should we do with someone who is walking down the street and throws a cigarette on the ground, take away his shoes?

Randy1956 makes a good point: we should get over this idea of impounding vehicles since the crime has nothing to do with vehicles, and the person who throws the butt out the window may not be the owner of the vehicle. The person who throws a butt or a lighted match on the ground, whether walking or in a vehicle, should be charged with “recklessness with fire”. There is already a similar provision in the Penal Code:

436 (1) Every person who owns, in whole or in part, or controls property is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years where, as a result of a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would use to prevent or control the spread of fires or to prevent explosions, that person is a cause of a fire or explosion in that property that causes bodily harm to another person or damage to property.

I suggest adding a provision, with a lesser penalty, that does not require that the culprit actually cause a fire and does not require that he or she control the property.

Never mind taking the car away… just get the guy in the bush fighting the fire or the next fire..

Just what does a fine accomplish… Time and money will be better spent being pro active and have them tell their in persons in school and workplaces

All these smokers have to do is put bottle half filled with water in their cup tray and dump the butts there. Is that too much to ask, for crying out loud?
It’s simple, cheap and it works. Smokers, get over yourselves, do the right thing!

Fine, start putting ashtrays back in the vehicles.
It is not a manufacturers place to decide social policy or initiate behavioral modification procedures.

Either cigarettes are legal or they are prohibited. Currently they are legal so bug off on harping over it. If you personally do not care for the ambiance, don’t be around it. I don’t tell you what you can or cannot consume or partake, so stop trying to tell me mine.

We have to realize that we are dealing with people who have the intelligence to spend hard earned cash on a pack of chemicals and then inhale them to make themselves sick. They can’t be that bright so we need to keep this simple.
I say add another percentage point or two to the price of smokes and funnel it into the fire fighting budget and carry on.

Prophet > when the headline picks on the cigarette butt and having a car taken away, not for causing a fire, but the act of throwing a cigarette butt out the window, no wonder that sticks in people’s minds even if they did red the rest of the story.

I agree with everyone who suggests that we need more information. We have had some large fires this year, but looking back at the probable cause, it appears that lightning was the major one this year. Just look at the headline after a night of lightning saying 131 new fires or whatever the number would be.

Someone posted on here they were a firefighter and every fire he fought was man made. We cannot base our fact finding on that one anecdotal piece of information. If I were to correlate that to the headlines after lightning streaked across the province and started over 100 fires it would still not give me a full picture of campfire started fires, ATV without spark arrestors started fires, etc.

Without the additional information about the specific causes of human caused fire, the headline and most other are jumping on smokers. I am not a smoker and never did smoke after I tried in my late teens. My lungs simply did not like it.

We need some information and we are not the ones who are individually going out there to do the research. That would be insane and a total waste of human resources. The government has the figures, and if Mike Morris wants us to jump in ad provide some opinions, then I will only do that if I get to know some facts which are available to him and the government.

The 375 fires so far this year that are projected to have been human caused with an estimated 43,718 hectares (I always love to see such statistics taken to a ridiculous degree of accuracy for an estimate. How about calling it 43,700, or better still 44,000, then I know it is an estimate right from the start) is about size the City of Prince George. How about telling us the total area of fires this year. I looked it up, it is around 293,000 hectares. Of that15% of that area is thought to be human caused, which means humans cause around 15% of the damage so far. That sounds a bit different already from humans cause 33% of the fires.

One other figure I would like to see is how much of that wood was beetle killed pine which by now is probably no longer merchantable. That is a figure that one will not find at the moment, but there is likely a figure from past years and with the MoF knowing something about stand inventories, they may be able to estimate it for each one of the fires this year.

We must not forget that part of the equation of the actual value of at least the fibre content of the stand that burned and whether it burned to the extent that it did was because of the proportion of dead standing pine these days.

BTW, just a bit of current information from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

Over the last 24 hours there have been 9 new fires started by lightning and one by humans.

In Alberta the number is 3 by lightning and 14 by humans.

The total for all of Canada in the last 24 hours is 22 by lightning and 24 by humans.

A small slice of the data which is not to be taken as a representative of the whole. Then again, it might be.

What is the probability that a fire will actually start as a result of in-attentional action? I would think it is considerably less that 1%. That is probably close to the hard core people interceptor is talking about. They are not the converted, and they are not even the convertable. Fines will not mean a thing to them.

Its sounds really good to change the law to charge the person starting the fires..but not everyone will follow it… Look at the advertisements etc about not using cell phones when driving, and yet at almost every intersection you see someone using them… More people have died from cell phone driving accidents etc this year than in forest fires.

Ignorant people are just that ignorant… they dont think it will happen to them…or what are the chances of thier cig starting a fire etc.

Most we can hope for is people being intelligent and not tossing their butts out the window.. and also people stop using their cell phones when driving.. If they think of the result of a forest fire.. the cost, destruction and possible loss of life… the money to fight the fires comes from our taxes.. why give the gov another reason to raise them.. they already gouge us enough….

Good points PVal. The government is like parents that have lost control of the kids. They think by increasing the penalty they’ll get compliance. Behave or we’ll spank you,hit you with a stick, beat you to an inch of your life, kill you. And the kids know mom and dad are all talk no action. Same in society We’ve pretty much figured out there’s no enforcement and increased penalties mean nothing if there is no risk of getting caught. There are no police patrols on the highway so who’s going to catch u tossing a butt. You can count 1 driver per minute on their cell phone driving past our brand new cop shop. Without active enforcement all I hear with these announcements is blah blah blah.

yes… throwing a butt out the window and having your vehicle taken away has a lot of consequences.. A person charged with murder/manslaughter has a better chance of walking the streets after.. Taking a vehicle away could mean a family loses only transportation they have, and if you have kids, you need a vehicle. Not everyone is fortunate as some of us to have two vehicles. Maybe take Mike Morris car away.. Lets see how long he can cope living in PG without a vehicle.. As I said before…Govt looked everywhere else on how to get money out of people.. only place they haven’t looked is the butt

Mike Morris states; “The vast majority of British Columbians are respectful, careful people who help protect our forests from devastating wildfires. But there are still too many individuals who haven’t heard the message and continue to make careless decisions that lead to wildfires.”

Common sense dictates that if “there are too many individuals who haven’t heard the message” perhaps this government should actually spend some money on getting that “message” out. Nothing like using a combination of approaches to change careless behaviors. Oops, what am I saying, launching an education and awareness campaign aimed at changing careless behavior would cost this government money, so ignore that and concentrate on money generating approaches like increasing fines. Punish, punish, punish, fine, fine, fine… how simple, unimaginative, and predictable.

Even so we are not as dumb and reckless as this government would have us believe. Only during the coldest and wettest summers do human caused fires out number lightening caused fires, refer to 2011 and 2005 where there were the fewest number of forest fires because of cool wet summers, and the human caused fires out numbers the lightening caused fires.

Yet during the hottest most dangerous summers for forest fires, the number of human caused fires are much lower than lightening caused fires. The reason why? Because we get the “message” that the fire danger rating is extreme, and change our behaviour accordingly. Mike Morris and his government already know this, but an opportunity to leverage more money from Joe and Jane taxpayer is much more attractive to them than launching an expensive education and awareness campaign which would adjust out behaviour. ski51’s comment is consistent with my findings. You can check out the numbers, and my assertions by following this link:

http: //bcwildfire.ca/History/average.htm

Copy and paste the link to your address bar, then delete the space between the http: and the /

I still haven’t found any information about how many fires have started beside roadways, where the cause could probably be attributed to a thrown butt.

cougs79: If I remember correctly, the person who admitted to causing the Barriere fire, stated that he was standing beside the road and carelessly threw a cigarette but into dry grass. He wasn’t in a moving vehicle.

I was asking a serious, sincere question. I wonder why people got so riled up about it?

Comments for this article are closed.