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252   COMMISSION OF CONSERVATION

for the prevention of prairie fires, which frequently swept over the country, destroying the homesteaders' buildings and crops. Since that time the occupation of land has been pushed forward to the border of the northern forest, through which travel has increased greatly and the fire danger likewise. It is but natural that the old provisions, made for open prairie conditions, should not be the most effective for pre-venting forest fires. This prevention, with a mere handful of men, is difficult enough, even when backed by favourable laws. All modern legislation recognizes the principle of the closed season, during which a permit to set fires is necessary; further, since securing a conviction is so difficult, the present tendency is to put the onus of proof on the defendant that he has complied with the law. As to these points, the fire laws of the prairie provinces are deficient. Forest fire legislation in Canada has made rapid strides in the last decade, and the Prairie provinces cannot afford to lag behind. New forest fire acts, framed to meet the sources of danger, and having relevance to the northern portion, are urgently needed.

Another important branch of the forest protection system, and separate from the patrol organization just discussed, lies in the inspection of the protective work done by the railway companies under regulations issued by the Board of Railway Commissioners by virtue of the authority of the Railway Act of Canada.

In brief, these regulations relate to the use of fire protective appliances on locomotives, the regulation of fuel, the construction of fire guards, the clearing of rights-of-way, and the establishment of a special patrol of the railway line from April 1 to November 1, as specified by the chief fire inspector of the Board. The burden of proof is placed upon railway companies to extinguish fires starting within 300 feet of the track, unless the company can show that the fire was not caused by the railway, and all regular employees are required to report the discovery of all fires on or near the right-of-way, and to take steps to extinguish them. The principle throughout is that the railway companies themselves must undertake the work of protecting the public against damage by railway fires. The legislation is easily the most efficient in America, and affects all railways in operation or under construction which are under the jurisdiction of the Board of Railway Commissioners.

The inspection looking to the enforcement of the regulations is in charge of the fire inspection department of the Board. This department is assisted by the appointment of certain outside forestry officials as officers of the Board, without additional pay, to supervise the detailed field inspection. This work in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, outside the forest reserves and parks, is in charge of the Dominion inspector of fire ranging, assisted by district inspectors.


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