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Provincial NDP leader John Horgan joining a growing list of government leaders and authorities criticizing those who are apparently ignoring pleas to protect BC forests.

Over a quarter million hectares have burned since April 1, and the provincial government has already acknowledged it is about $30 million over this years’ $63 million taxpayer dollar wildfire suppression budget.

“Whenever I see a cigarette come out a window, I think, ‘Yes, I appreciate we got to stop people using their cellphones (while driving), but why is that person who just threw a cigarette out the window still driving a car?” Horgan said.

“I think the public would respond to… aggressive legislation to get idiots to stop being idiots.”

Most of the 951 fires reported through yesterday were started by lightning, but as vacationers continue to pour into the forests that’s beginning to change.

The last published Wildfire Management Branch updates on new fires showed 30 were discovered on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 16 of them were human caused.

There is now a province-wide fire ban in place until the end of September, including all municipalities in the Peace River Regional District. With more than 20 fires burning in the Fort Nelson zone, the Ministry of the Environment’s air quality advisories include Fort St. John.

Forests Minister Steve Thompson, the Kelowna/Mission MLA — who experienced both the firestorm in that area in 2003 and the disastrous 2010 fire season — calls this year’s season the most challenging the province has ever faced.

He notes in past years that calls for assistance from other jurisdictions have significantly helped during problematic periods, but this year much of Western Canada and the United States are facing similar problems.

That has opened the door for the climate change advocates who have warned about this for years, and the Vancouver Sun published an article this week quoting the Dean of Forestry at UBC who said, “Basically if climate change weren’t occurring, it would still have been warmer than normal this summer, but, on top of that, we have climate change.”

John Innes also predicted global warming will not only increase the length and intensity of the forest fire season, but will, among other things, reduce the accessibility of remote areas here in north, because of an early spring breakup that makes transportation routes impassible.

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