As of Monday (August 4), a large forest fire that broke out near Skutz Falls was declared to be 100 per cent contained, and is now in “mop-up” process.
A crew of nine firefighters and a water tender are currently working to put out hot spots. On Tuesday morning (August 4), the area was scanned and additional hot spots were found.
“Crews are working to get hot spots out and we’re hoping to get it in patrol by mid-week,” Coastal Fire Centre information officer Donna MacPherson said. “We’ll be turning it back to industry for patrol.”
The fire has since grown to 16 hectares (39.5 acres), though according to the Coastal Fire Centre, crews have it contained within the perimeter, and it is no longer considered a “wildfire of note.”
Local firefighters from Lake Cowichan and Sahtlam were first called to combat the fire on July 28 in the late afternoon, as the blaze was visible from both ends of Highway 18. Though crews first speculated that there could be two separate fires, it was confirmed that they were dealing with a single 10 hectare (24.7 acre) fire.
According to Coastal Fire Centre information officer Marg Drysdale, the fire broke out on private forested land in slash (bucked and felled timber) amidst a steep slope, just 10 km east of Cowichan Lake.
“There are only certain areas of the fire they can work on, so they [were] doing a lot of bucketing and other work on the edges,” Drysdale said. “There’s also concern of rolling debris – it’s a whole different beast.”
Local firefighters quickly made a call to the BC Wildfire Service, who had aircraft circling overhead within an hour. The local firefighters were relieved later that night, with the BC Wildfire Service taking up the fight. The initial crew consisted of two BC Wildfire response officers, two initial attack crews, 18 contract firefighters, three water tenders, fire helicopters and air tankers, including the Martin MARS waterbomber.
Industry representatives were also on the scene, and a Type 1 Unit Crew – consisting of 20 firefighters – joined the effort on Wednesday morning.
Drysdale confirmed that by Thursday (July 30) the crew of 75, in addition to five helicopters and other aircraft on standby, had the fire 50 per cent contained.
“It was quite the airshow, I’ve heard,” Drysdale said. Five helicopters of varying sizes were doing most of the work from the air, filling their buckets at nearby water sources.
Heavy machinery and additional tenders were also called for.
Aircraft were not working on the fire during the weekend, and after Tuesday the air tankers were on standby on the ground.
“When they have crews on the ground they don’t want to use air tankers because it means the ground crews have to pull back,” Drysdale said.
The fire is believed to have been human-caused and an investigation is currently ongoing. No evacuations or road closures were issued, despite speculation by residents.