The Port Alberni Fire Department is on track to have one of its busiest years ever following another weekend of numerous calls.
Crews were called out 25 times for first responder calls, a pair of MVIs, some false alarms from commercial businesses following a power outage on Saturday and two minor structure fires (a hot cooking element at the Beaufort Hotel and a small fire on a deck of a home on 14th Avenue that neighbours contained).
“We’re on track to have the busiest year in at least the last six years and probably longer,” PAFD deputy chief Wes Patterson said. “We’re at 1,242 calls this year.”
In comparison, crews were called out 1,281 times for all of 2020.
Of this year’s calls, 116 of them are for brush fires and backyard burning complaints, Patterson said. Crews have been called repeatedly to Dry Creek Park and different locations along Rogers Creek to douse flames, most of them caused by humans.
The PAFD had to put out another fire in the trail system behind the Alberni Athletic Hall last week—the second one in just a couple of months.
Patterson said that the department was called at about 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 18 about smoke in the area around Roger Creek near the Scott Kenny Trail.
“[A crew] walked around the trail systems and had a good look around, but they weren’t able to find anything at that point in time,” said Patterson.
A few hours later, just after midnight, the department received another call from the same area. This time, crews found a 100-foot by 150-foot fire burning in the trail system.
Patterson said crews were able to contain the fire by 5:30 a.m. and have spent most of the morning and afternoon mopping up hot spots in the area.
“We just wanted to make sure it was out,” said Patterson.
At this point, the fire is suspected to be human-caused, but the exact cause is undetermined, said Patterson. Port Alberni RCMP have attended the scene.
This is far from the first human-caused fire that crews have responded to this summer. The PAFD had to put out another wildfire in the Scott Kenny Trail system just a month ago. In the last week, Patterson said the department has responded to nine different reports of outdoor fires. Some of these turned out to be backyard campfires.
“Which are not permitted at this time,” Patterson added.
A campfire ban was put into effect in late June. Anyone found in violation of the ban can be fined or face up to one year in jail and be ordered to pay firefighting costs if the fire sparks a wildfire. On Aug. 10, Port Alberni RCMP issued a $1,150 violation ticket after three men were found sleeping in a tent in the Dry Creek Park area with a campfire burning nearby.
Port Alberni RCMP have already arrested two people this summer on arson charges linked to three fires.
Anyone with information about the fire behind the Alberni Athletic Hall is asked to call the Port Alberni RCMP at 250-723-2424.
—With files from Susie Quinn, Alberni Valley News