A file photo of fireworks. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Two Fort Smith men have been charged under little-known NWT legislation after allegedly igniting fireworks during a region-wide fire ban.
The NWT government has had fire bans in place for the whole of the North Slave and almost the entire South Slave since last month. The unprecedented bans were extended on Friday and will now run until at least August 11.
Fort Smith RCMP say they were called about “possible shots being fired” on July 31 and ultimately discovered two men were setting off fireworks.
Both men have been charged with violating the Forest Protection Act, which gives the GNWT the power to declare whole areas of the territory off-limits for nearly any kind of fire – or activities that might start fires.
“Violating the Forest Protection Act can be punished by a fine or prison sentence of up to two years in jail,” RCMP stated in a news release on Friday afternoon.
“The act also has provisions for the GNWT to recoup the financial costs of fighting any fire caused by someone’s careless actions. These amounts would be financially devastating for anyone,” police added.
“Given the unprecedented risk of forest fires currently threatening numerous communities, including Fort Smith, this careless action could have had devastating consequences for the community and its residents. The RCMP encourage people to use common sense and consider the well-being of themselves and others when choosing their activities.”
Meanwhile, Fort Smith RCMP say they are investigating “numerous reports” of more fireworks being set off on August 2.
Police recovered a “still-smoking metal box” and are asking the public for any information about who might be responsible.
How the bans work
The region-wide bans, put in place last month using the Forest Protection Act, act like municipal fire bans but on a far grander scale. They cover every community in both regions and both public and private land.
Each ban must be reviewed weekly and either terminated or extended.
On Friday, the GNWT said it was extending them for at least one more week, until August 11. Extensions could keep coming indefinitely after that.
“These bans are being extended as a result of continued extreme wildfire danger and extraordinary weather conditions. These restrictions are intended to help protect communities, values at risk, and our wildland firefighters by limiting avoidable person-caused fires,” the Department of Environment and Climate Change stated.
The bans bar the use of any kind of open fire outdoors, including in a fireplace or fire pit, at a campsite, or an open stove or grill.
You can still use closed stoves, closed barbecues, closed furnaces, and CSA or ULC-approved gas and propane barbecues. You can also use fire if you’re exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights like cooking or hide-tanning.