Camp fire sparks bush blaze near Crofton

Drier conditions than are usually expected this time of year contributed to a brush fire that erupted off Grace Road near Crofton on Sunday morning.

The fire is believed to have been sparked by an abandoned camp fire, but warm weather and a lack of noteworthy precipitation in the preceding weeks made the situation possible.

"If the pattern continues, it will be a long, hot summer," North Cowichan municipal forester Darrell Frank said. "It’s definitely drier than normal."

The fire on land owned by North Cowichan and managed as a municipal forest reserve

consumed between an acre and an acre and a half of slash in an area that was just planted this spring.

Members of the Crofton and Chemainus fire halls noticed smoke coming from the area and started looking for the cause.

It turned out to be in Crofton’s area, but firefighters from several other halls, including Chemainus, Maple Bay, South End and Duncan helped put it down, as well as representatives of the BC Forest Service.

Because it was training day for all the local departments, about 40 firefighters in total were available.

"Sunday is a practice day for all the halls," Frank noted. "Everybody came running. We appreciate that from our standpoint." Once they were on the scene, it didn’t take long to get the blaze under control.

"They hit it really hard, really fast," Frank said. "They kept it a ground fire, rather than getting up in the crowns of trees."

Temperatures in the days before the fire had been in the high 20s, with humidity in the 45 per cent range.

The smoke was spotted just before the sun would have started to burn off the dew and mist, creating even more challenging conditions.

"If the wind got moving, it would have been worse," Frank noted.

The scorched area is just a few hundred metres away and across the Chemainus River from homes and the Chemainus industrial park.

If the dry conditions continue, the forest reserve might have to be made off-limits to the public.

"We will assess the situation in the middle of the week," Frank said. "The next step would be to lock the gates."

Anyone with information about how the fire might have started should call the Municipality of North Cowichan at 250-746-3100.

Anyone who spots a wildfire in B.C. should call 9-1-1 or the Wildfire Management Branch at 1-800-663-5555 or *5555.

Cowichan Valley Citizen