There has been a lot of discussion online following a post in an evacuation group about a “let it burn” policy but Daryl Jessop with the Ministry of Environment said it is misunderstood.
“There is no such policy,” he said. “Our policy that we do have is that we have zones and all fires are assessed and looked at the proximity to people and property is carefully considered and then the appropriate response is determined depending on location, circumstances, conditions, and available equipment.”
Jessop explained that in some instances the fire is in the “observation zone” where it may be allowed to run its natural course because it “is healthy for the forest renewal”. He said that zone is roughly north of the Churchill River where the values, remote cabins or outfitters camps, are sparse.
The other zones are commercial timber full response zone, commerical timber modified response zone, and the community full response zone.
“(Community full response zone) is to go with full response on any fire that poses a threat with the intent to control and extinguish the fire within the 20 kilometres,” he said.
“We work communities and we do whatever we can to protect the community.”
He added that for remote cabins right now they have deployed all of their sprinklers, which could be used to help.
The Facebook post which sparked the conversation stated there are a lot of cabins in the north where people practice their traditional way of hunting and trapping.
“The government will not let our firefighters go to to these cabins and set up (sprinklers) because it falls out of the 20km radius as per the let it burn policy,” it said.
Jessop said he cannot comment on the firefighters but Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of Lac La Ronge Indian Band said in a statement said she believes that changes need to be made to the current response policy to allow more local firefighters to work on the fires.
“Extreme situations require extreme measures – this is the time to have flexibility on the policy so our people can become involved and assist in fighting the wild fires. Our people have the knowledge, skills, experience for fire fighting and are ready to work. The current policy does not allow people without the official training designation of Type 3 to help fight the fires and human resources are running short,” Cook-Searson said.
Once the fires are stabilized, Cook-Searson would like to call a northern gathering to discuss how to improve the response to fire control and the overall management of fires in the Woodland Cree territory in the future.
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