Thursday, July 8, 2010

Saskatchewan farmer convicted in stubble fire case

A Saskatchewan farmer has been convicted of having started "an outdoor fire without first taking sufficient precautions to ensure that the fire can be kept under control at all times, contrary to s.15(a) of The Prairie and Forest Fires Act, 1982".  On May 5, 2009, John Kushniruk was burning stubble from his farm land (which is held under a lease from the Crown) adjacent to Crown forested land, and the fire got out of control, causing damage to the wooded area.

Kushniruk had created a fireguard by working up land around the area to be burned, but an investigator observed that there was a lot of exposed grass in the fireguard area.  Kushniruk stated that he had already burned three different spots in the vicinity, without problems, and that the last one (the one that formed the subject of this charge), became a problem only when the wind came up later that afternoon. In his words, in the statement, a “cyclone got into the fire”, it “spun it”, and “some flames started to leak across the fireguard”.  He took remedial measures at that time, although to no avail.  At one point in his statement he summed it up by stating:  "That cyclone got in there and was enough to scatter it across."

A conviction was entered because it was found that Kushniruk had not taken sufficient precautions.  His fireguard was inadequate and there was no evidence that he has any firefighting equipment or materials with him.  He was working alone on the day of the incident in question.  Kushniruk's "due diligence" defence failed.

Kushniruk was acquitted on a second count against him - having started "an outdoor fire when weather conditions are conducive to a fire readily escaping control".  In the view of the Provincial Court judge, the evidence was not sufficient to establish that weather conditions were conducive to a fire readily escaping control.  The fire in question was the fourth set by the farmer that same day.

Read the decision at: R. v. Kushniruk.