Firefighting Readiness only Concern in Sunshine Coast Audit
Victoria -The Sunshine Coast forest district’s small business forest enterprise program generally complied with Forest Practices Code requirements, with the exception of fire-protection planning and preparedness, says a report released today by the Forest Practices Board.
The report concludes the board’s audit of the government-run program under which the Ministry of Forests awards timber sale licences to small business licensees.
The only significant non-compliance identified in the audit involved deficiencies in fire-preparedness plans and on-site availability of fire tools.
The report notes that, at two of three industrial sites inspected, firefighting tools and equipment did not meet code requirements. The deficiencies included a shortage of water, hand pumps, shovels and fire extinguishers.
The report also states that seven fire-preparedness plans did not comply with code requirements for identification of people with training qualifications, availability of tools in central caches, location of weather stations, timing of industrial activities, and planning for fire-detection and suppression actions.
In its examination of fire-preparedness planning, the audit identified a need to review current legislation. The intent of code requirements for licensees to submit fire-preparedness plans is to help ensure that they are prepared to fight fires that may result from their forest activities. Yet provincial fire protection is now centralized through Ministry of Forests regional bases, and licensees’ fire-preparedness plans are generally not used. Consequently, the code requirement for timber sale licences does not match the intent for having these plans.
The board suggests government re-examine the requirements for licensee fire-preparedness plans and assess whether current legislation is relevant in the context of a centralized fire-protection program. The board recommends that the Sunshine Coast forest district review its procedures for fire-tool inspections, and that the Ministry of Forests review the fire-preparedness planning process and content within the small business program, and amend legislation if necessary.
The audit also identified two notable practices. Bridge construction on main access roads and over fish-bearing streams was high quality, which minimizes environmental risk, increases safety in areas of high public use and reduces long-term maintenance costs. Road rehabilitation practices, including full re-contouring and planting, exceeded the minimum requirements of the code.
The board also commends the Sunshine Coast forest district for its approach to managing non-timber resources through measures to protect marbled murrelet nesting habitat and implementation of an integrated watershed management plan.
The Sunshine Coast small business program was selected for audit randomly, not on the basis of location or level of performance. The program has operations throughout the Sunshine Coast, from Sechelt in the south to Desolation Sound in the north.
The audit examined planning and field activities related to timber harvesting; road construction, maintenance and deactivation; silviculture; and fire protection carried out between Sept. 15, 1998, and Sept. 22, 1999. Activities included harvesting on 45 cutblocks; 36 operational plans; construction of 43.7 kilometres of road; 179 kilometres of road maintenance and deactivation; construction and maintenance of 73 bridges; planting of 15 cutblocks; and fire-preparedness planning, fuel management and hazard abatement.
The audit of the Sunshine Coast small business forest enterprise program is the 28th compliance audit completed by the board. Ten were clean audits, meaning the forest planning and practices met code requirements in all significant respects. Eighteen were qualified audits, meaning that there was some significant non-compliance with the code. Most non-compliance was related to logging practices near streams and the construction, maintenance and deactivation of logging roads.
The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog, established in 1995, that publishes reports about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent.The board’s main roles under the Forest Practices Code are:
- Investigating public complaints.
- Auditing government enforcement of the code.
- Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
- Undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues.
- Participating in administrative reviews and appeals.
- Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.
Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964
Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964
October 19, 2000