Volunteer firefighters from Cranberry and Extension fire halls knocked down a bush fire that started near White Rapids road Monday night. Heavy smoke over the region is making it difficult to pinpoint the locations of new wildfires. Photo from Extension Volunteer Fire Department social media page

Firefighters knock down bush fire south of Nanaimo

Heavy smoke in atmosphere is making spotting new fires difficult from the air and ground

Firefighters are still working on hot spots left over from a bush fire that started south of Nanaimo on Monday night.

Ron Gueulette, Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department chief, said he was notified of the blaze shortly after 8 p.m. Monday.

“A young couple stopped by our hall and said they saw a fire starting up under the power lines,” Gueulette said.

There was so much smoke in the atmosphere, Gueulette had a difficult time determining where the fire was.

“It was hard to see, but I thought I saw convective smoke farther away so I called Extension [Volunteer Fire Department} and the City of Nanaimo,” Gueulette said.

He eventually located the fire on Evans Road, a logging road that runs off White Rapids Road, south of the Extension Road intersection.

The fire had grown in the previously logged area to about 76 metres by about 46 metres.

Extension and Cranberry fire departments knocked down the blaze and Cranberry volunteer firefighters returned to douse hot spots that started burning again Tuesday morning.

“I think it would have to be human-caused because we didn’t have any lightning that I know of and I don’t see any glass bottles that would be reflecting at eight o’clock at night,” Gueulette said.

Cranberry VFD also responded with other fire halls to fires in hog fuel piles at Harmac on Saturday and two separate hog fuel piles on Brenton Page Road on Sunday and Monday.

Cranberry Fire Volunteer Fire Department is one of a number of halls B.C. Wildfire Service has established as “strike teams” as initial responders to bush fires. Port Alberni, Oyster River and Dashwood fire halls are the other fire halls on standby on the Island.

“Cranberry fire department is a strike team for us, so they responded on our behalf so they were B.C. Wildfire for us at that moment … Every year we work with local fire departments, in terms of resourcing, and talk about what they have and what we have and what they need, what we can provide and often create these strike teams, like we did with Cranberry and they were mobilized for us on that one,” said Dorthe Jakobsen, B.C. Wildfire Service spokeswoman.

Jakobsen said heavy smoke in the atmosphere is making it difficult to pinpoint locations of new fires, especially for pilots doing patrols.

“It’s an issue,” she said. “We have trouble flying in the morning and getting eyes on these things is sometimes tricky, from the air anyway, which is how we spot most of them.”

RELATED: Mid-Vancouver Island air quality risk very high

B.C. Wildfire Service flies regular patrol flights to look for new fire starts, but commercial pilots are also obligated to report wildfires and fires are also called in by the public.

Anyone who spots a wildfire is asked to call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555.

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