The B.C. Forest Appeals Commission says a man who lit a large debris pile on fire that eventually caused a wildfire should pay the provincial government nearly $450,000 for firefighting costs and lost timber resources.
In an appeal decision released last week, the commission says Clarke Matthiesen tried to blame an arsonist for the blaze that investigators say started on his property west of Quesnel, B.C., in the province’s interior.
The decision says Matthiesen lit the debris fire on a property he owns with his brother in February 2019, thinking snow around the blaze would work as a “fuel break.”
But it says that more than two months later, Matthiesen and his brother came upon a grass fire nearby, which they couldn’t put out with shovels.
It says Matthiesen then drove to a neighbouring property to report the fire, and the BC Wildfire Service responded that evening.
The commission rejected Matthiesen’s claims that his neighbour’s grandson could have lit the fire, and found instead that it was a “holdover” from the debris pile that measured 14 metres by 16 metres.
He was ordered to pay a $2,350 fine, $260,369 for fire control costs and $179,344 for destruction of Crown-owned timber resources.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2023.