A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)

Vancouver Islanders warned of fire risk caused by dry conditions

As dry spell poised to end, officials warn of risks involved with backyard burning

Yard waste burning and unseasonably warm weather pose a potentially dangerous mix.

And with dry weather causing more brushfires than usual so far this spring in parts of Vancouver Island, officials are hoping it is not a sign of things to come.

The Parksville-Qualicum area Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department issued a warning on Facebook that yard debris burning under dry conditions has significant potential to lead to uncontrolled fires.

“There have been several fires locally where people have been burning their yard debris and the fire has gotten to the point of being out of control. We are urging our residents to hold off on burning until we get some rain. The (temperature) is supposed to cool back off to seasonal norms later in the week,” read the post.

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Fire chief Nick Acciavatti said the post was issued as a preventative measure to warn the community on how dry it actually is right now, as he believes many people may not be aware.

There is usually more rain at this time of year — and the wet weather is expected to return this weekend — and extra wind has created even drier conditions, setting up a situation that caters to brushfires. Between April 5 and 15, crews from North Cowichan’s four halls alone responded to eight brushfires.

“We’re not to the point where we have to do patrols,” North Cowichan manager of fire and bylaw services Martin Drakeley said. “But hopefully this isn’t telling for the rest of the year.”

The fires this spring have come from a variety of sources, he noted.

“There have been a few backyard burns that have gotten away, and a few bark mulch fires smouldering until the wind kicks up.”

North Cowichan’s forestry department and parks and recreation staff are keeping an eye out, and residents should continue to watch for fires. They should be “situationally aware” of where smoke is coming from and not phone in unless it’s necessary. For example, make sure it’s not just your neighbour’s diesel truck starting up, or haze from a nearby mill.

DVFD asked if residents do have a yard debris fire, that they; ensure the fire is small; not burn on breezy days; remain in attendance during the burning process; have plenty of water on hand; have a proper fire break around the fire pit to prevent spreading; have hand-tools to prevent spreading; and that they ensure the burning site is not located near forested lands or structures.

Acciavatti suggested for anyone looking to burn yard debris, to first check out firesmartbc.ca

Different jurisdictions have different burning levels in place, so make sure to check with officials in your area. Recreational firepits are typically not a cause for alarm, as long as they comply with your local Fire Protection Bylaw.

Drakeley has three rules for preventing fires this time of year: “Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.”

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mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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