Sooke bush fires sparked by human error

Open fire ban along B.C. coast comes into effect today (Aug. 17).

  • Wed Aug 17th, 2016 4:00pm
  • News

Two bush fires in the Sooke region last week were likely sparked by people or by accident, prompting a warning from fire officials for residents to exercise caution and use common sense when out and about in wilderness areas.

“People need to be careful with their smoking materials, and when they’re out in the backcountry to be observant,” said interim Sooke fire chief Russ Cameron.

Today (Aug. 17), a campfire ban for almost all of Vancouver Island will go into effect due to dangerously dry conditions, the B.C. Wildfire Service announced Monday.

The campfire prohibition covers all B.C. parks, Crown and private lands within the coastal fire region, which includes the Island, and parts of the Lower Mainland.

On Sunday, a bush fire broke out in the Silver Spray area of East Sooke, 20 meters down an old private road, a little while after individuals left a campfire unchecked.

“They didn’t really bother to check if the fire was completely put out, they just left,” said East Sooke Fire Chief Roger Beck, who called in mutual aid from Sooke and Metchosin fire departments to bring the fire, which had grown at one point to a quarter acre, under control.

By Monday, the fire was still smoldering between rock cracks, which required continuous supervision, Beck said, adding in most bush fire cases of this kind, it’s almost always human-caused.

Regardless of human caused or not, it’s still important for the public to keep eyes peeled at all times, Cameron said.

“They’re our eyes and ears in the wilderness here, so early detection of any fire is paramount for us.”

“People should be calling us if they smell or see something that is unusual.”

Such was the case last Thursday, when a trail runner noticed smoke billowing in the Broom Hill area in Sooke and called 911.

Though relatively small in size – 100×30 feet, Cameron said the fire was hard to reach.

“We had to pull in a couple of thousand feet of hose at the edge of a rocky slope and a ravine. It was a small fire, just hard to get to,” he said.

Cameron said that the severity of fire risk largely depends on the time of year.

“Right now we’re geared up for the fire season, so we have to be cautious about things that occur in the woodlands and the weather patterns,” he said, adding his biggest concern is wild land fires for the next month.

Mind you, there are ways of getting people to listen.

Anyone found going against an open fire ban may be fined up to $1,150. If a fire caused by an individual escapes and results in a wildfire, they could face up to $1 million in fines and be sentenced to one year in prison.

To report a wildfire, please call 1-800-663-5555 or, if immediately life-threatening, 911.