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

Just Posted

Port Hardy RCMP cleared in arrest that left man with broken ribs, punctured lung: watchdog

The IIO noted the matter will not be referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: Devil’s Bath is the largest cenote in Canada

“This trail is rough and should be executed with caution”

OPINION: MP Rachel Blaney takes aim at coastal fisheries restrictions

“We all share in the responsibility of taking care of our salmon habitats and populations”

Northern Vancouver Island regional science fair winners – 2019

Daniel Kornylo won one of the 12 provincial science fair awards.

North Island Eagles select head coaches for upcoming season

“We appreciate the commitment each of you make to the club and to your teams”

Fashion Fridays: 5 casual summer dress styles

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

LETTER: The constant growth of the Harvest thrift store and food bank

“we now serve the complete Northern end of Vancouver Island – everyone North of Woss!”

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

Most Read