Glenn Britton removed fire pits and garbage from Heart Lake May 16 and found evidence of an attempt to burn a live Douglas fir tree.

Firebugs raise ire of Fire Chief

Illegal fires and attempt to burn live tree at Heart Lake draws fire-risk warning from Ladysmith Fire Chief Ray Delcourt.

Ladysmith Fire/Rescue wants to smother problem fires before the arid summer heat transforms local forests into a tinder box.

Fire Chief Ray Delcourt spotted smoke in the vicinity of Heart Lake on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 15, he said.

When Glenn Britton, parks supervisor with the town of Ladysmith, hiked up to Heart Lake the following morning to investigate, he discovered “a massive burn site” and “a burn around the base of a tree.”

A live red cedar tree had also been chopped down.

Britton removed five fire pits from the area — including a “massive” fire pit three and a half feet across — and garbage left at the site, he said.

Delcourt and Britton’s biggest concern, though, was an apparent attempt to burn a live Douglas fir tree — an act that verges on arson, Britton said.

Signage surrounding Heart Lake clearly states that campfires and motor vehicles are prohibited, Britton said.

If an illegal fire were to spread, those responsible for lighting it would face fines, Delcourt said, and may be forced to repay the costs of fighting any resulting wildfires.

“Our concern is the fact that we’re getting into the summer trend here,” Delcourt added. “If they did this last week when it was drier, there could’ve been a lot more damage up there. Summer’s coming up pretty quick and we could see a lot of problems in that area. The starting of an ‘interface fire’ is something we don’t need.”

In spite of the damp conditions last week, Britton said that “underneath the ashes, [the soil] was still hot. The thatch of the forest was still warm and burning. We had to go up and dig it out today, and that’s what we’re worried about. Where people think that they’ve put a fire out and they walk away, they don’t realize that they have to dig a good foot and a half down into the ground to actually get it out.”

Britton and Delcourt said that anyone who comes across an illegal fire should call Ladysmith Fire/Rescue, the town of Ladysmith or the RCMP.

Over the May long weekend, the Coastal Fire Centre (CFC) rated the risk of forest fires at “very low to low” for Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and the Coast Mountains, CFC fire information officer Marg Drysdale said.