A wildfire burning at Klanawa near Sarita Bay on the west coast of Vancouver Island near Bamfield is already 12 hectares according to BC Wildfire. (Submitted photo)

Hot weather, brush fires could spell early start to Vancouver Island wildfire season

Coastal Fire Centre considering a campfire prohibition as soon as next week

Wildfire season could be off to an early start this year on Vancouver Island.

The BC Wildfire Service has added a report of new 12-hectare blaze near Bamfield today to reports a five-hectare blaze in Sayward and a small blaze measuring .2 hectares in Sooke to a week that has already featured a pair of blazes in Cowichan.

Coastal Fire Centre hasn’t brought in fire restrictions for the year, but is considering some, possibly as early as Monday, May 13, said Dorthe Jakobsen, fire information officer.

Record heat combined with wind have created dry conditions, but the ground is also dry this year because of a cold winter that brought snow but not spring rains that would normally help soak snowmelt into the earth.

“So we’ve had kind of a dry late winter and spring. We haven’t had the precipitation we normally would,” Jakobsen said. “We’re getting some pretty warm temperatures and things are drying out. It’s getting pretty dry out there and the fire danger rating is increasing as we speak, so we will be looking a prohibitions, probably next week.”

Coastal Fire Centre’s fire season starts April 1 and, to date, 2019 has seen double the five-year average for wildfires and is already rivalling 2018 and 2017, which were B.C.’s two worst fire seasons.

“Since April 1 we’ve had 21 fires, all human-caused, and the five-year-average at this time is 10,” she said.

Jakobsen said it’s still too early to know if the 2019 fire season is early, but the province has firefighting crews ready to respond.

“If we get the June rains then we could be OK,” she said.

RELATED: Crews called to bush fires at Nanaimo’s Barsby Park

RELATED: Unusually dry March leads to dozens of grass fires in B.C.

On Thursday night, North Cedar Fire Department battled a small but stubborn fire on the island in Quennell Lake south of Nanaino that took several hours to completely snuff out.

Percy Tipping, North Cedar Fire Department chief, said the cause of the fire isn’t certain, but is suspected to be the result of a campfire on the weekend that was put out, but was fanned back to life by several days of wind and high temperatures.

“Essentially, as for size, I think it was probably 20, 30 feet by 50 to 60 feet, but it got deep-seated into the root systems of some of the trees there,” Tipping said. “So it took us a while to get that finished up there. I think we were there four hours.”

The Quennell Lake fire was one of several, including a half-hectare grass fire on Raines Road, that his department had to knock down in recent days.

“We’re in the higher fire rating right now, so there’s no open burning in our district, other than campfires,” Tipping said.

Geoff Whiting, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief, said Nanaimo’s usual fire restrictions are in place and prohibit backyard burning and smoking and campfires in parks. Cooking fires will be banned when Coastal Fire Centre brings in the seasonal campfire ban.

“We’re at quite a high [fire danger] rating already, though,” Whiting said. “We’re at a four out of five rating, which is pretty early in the season to be at that and that’s set by coastal fire … You know, it’s usually June or the end of June. We can often go through May at a three so it’s a month early, anyway.”

Hot weather has already contributed to landscaping bark mulch and small brush fires around Nanaimo, mostly started by discarded cigarettes. Bark mulch fires can smoulder unnoticed for hours, even days, Whiting said, and can easily flare up to spark structure fires.

“We’re asking people to be very safe, of course, to do really good open fire best practices,” Jakobsen said. “Monitoring, fully extinguish, make sure everything’s cold, make sure you’re taking weather conditions into account and don’t burn if you don’t have to.”

RELATED: Logging companies close gates, deny access to backcountry



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

First downtown parklet patio installed on 1st Avenue

Social distancing regulations will determine the total seat count

LSS students make video to commemorate 2020 musical

The LSS production of Newsies was cancelled due to COVID-19

Local handyman crafts emergency float from recycled materials

Pieter Stegeman built Air-Float-One to keep himself busy during the pandemic

Tent Island closed due to neglect and abuse from campers

Illegal campfires common on Penelakut Tribe reserve land

VIDEO: Disabled Vancouver Island feline teaching foster kittens ‘how to cat’

Life goes from sour to sweet for Lemon, an adopted cat from B.C. SPCA Nanaimo

Shady Lady: legendary Catalina touches down on Vancouver Island

Two flying boats test the waters west of Youbou, make Port Alberni pitstop

Bear put down after being found on Vancouver Island kitchen counter

Bear trapped and killed near Ucluelet after repeated instances of entering sheds and homes

Who can dismiss the Governor General? A look at protocols and possibilities

The Governor General is appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the prime minister

Second phase of NHL draft lottery set for Monday

Each club eliminated from qualifying round has a 12.5 per cent shot at the No. 1 pick

University of Victoria, rowing coach sued over alleged ‘fat shaming’ and verbal abuse

Lawsuit says Barney Williams subjected coxswain Lily Copeland to offensive and belittling language

1 year since a B.C. teen died in a skate park, his family still waiting for charges

Carson Crimeni’s final moments were broadcast on social media

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

Most Read