Thinking About Staying Home During An Evacuation Order? Think Twice.
Every wildfire season, stories circulate about individuals who ignore evacuation orders and remain at their property. The government is concerned that these individuals are risking the safety (and potentially the lives) of themselves and any first responder who would need to help them if they are unable to escape the wildfire. However, the provincial government and other local governments are authorized by various laws to issue and enforce evacuation orders, including via provincial statutes such as the Emergency Program Act, the Fire Services Act, and the Wildfire Act, and through local bylaws.
The Emergency Program Act gives the authority to the provincial and local governments to issue evacuation orders during a state of emergency. It also enables the government to enlist help from police to enforce these evacuation orders. If an individual does not comply with the evacuation order under the Emergency Program Act, that individual can be penalized up to a year imprisonment or a fine of $10,000.
The Fire Services Act gives power to the fire commissioner to evacuate a building or area. If an individual does not comply with the evacuation order under the Fire Services Act, that individual could be liable for a fine of $2,000 and 6 months in prison, plus a further penalty of $50 for each day the individual continues to breach the evacuation order.
The Wildfire Act permits the government to evacuate a certain area if the government is engaged in fire control. If an individual does not comply with an evacuation order under the Wildfire Act, that individual can be fined up to $100,000.
Additionally, some city bylaws enable Fire Chiefs to evacuate buildings. For example, there is a City of Kelowna bylaw which allows the Fire Chief to evacuate buildings and call on police to provide assistance to enforce the bylaw. Individuals who refuse to comply with this bylaw can be penalized up to $10,000 per day.
Although these penalties and fines are substantial, they are aimed primarily to discourage homeowners from taking unnecessary risks to themselves and others, including the significant personal health and safety of the first responders who would otherwise have to enter the dangerous areas to rescue individuals who did not abide by the evacuation orders.
Our Wildfire Litigation Team includes lawyers Alison Cathcart, Darcy Whittaker, and Thomas Eaves. Should you require more information, please call one of our lawyers at 1-250-762-2108 or visit our website at www.pushormitchell.com.
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