Canada — A judge has tossed the appeal of the provincial government seeking a quarter-million dollars in lost timber revenue from CN Rail after sparks from a train ignited a massive wildfire west of Kamloops in 2005.
And, the rail company has low timber prices to thank.
On July 29, 2005, the braking mechanism of a CN train in the Ashcroft area sparked a blaze, initially burning a nearby hillside.
Provincial officials responded with ground firefighters, air tankers and helicopters.
The fire was believed to have been contained, but got away from crews the following day and quickly grew to cover 40 square kilometres.
By provincial calculations, nearly $340,000 worth of mature timber was destroyed in the fire and the final firefighting bill came in just under $5.7 million.
In 2008, CN was handed steep fines $11,000 for violations and more than $250,000 to cover 75 per cent of the lost timber’s value.
CN appealed the fines, based on the fact timber prices fell dramatically between the time of the fire and the time the lost timber was assessed, nearly a year later.
According to CN, the value of the lost timber at the time of the assessment was just $6,252.50.
The Forest Appeals Commission sided with the rail company, but Victoria took that decision to B.C. Supreme Court.
Because there were no licences for loggers in the area at the time of the fire, the judge again sided with CN.
The rail company was awarded legal costs in fighting the appeal, but still has to pay $11,000 in fines and $6,252.50 for the burned timber. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.