Forests Minister Tom Waterland inserts time capsule at newly unveiled cairn during 50th anniversary of Cowichan Lake Reserach Station in August 1979. The capsule, containing photos, writing, and other memorabilia, will be re-opened in 2029. (Lake News Aug. 29, 1979)

Lake Flashback: Young people careless with fire, partying on the trail, plus ‘silent emergency’ in the forests

Extra this week: a special time capsule is buried at the Forest Research Station in 1979

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Lexi Bainas has been combing through old newspapers with the assistance of the Kaatza Station Museum and Archives so we can jog your memory, give you that nostalgic feeling, or just a chuckle, as we take a look at what was making headlines this week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by.

This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago:

Everything old is new again in the Sept. 2, 2009 edition of the Lake Cowichan Gazette.

We read that “Despite open fire ban, Lake Cowichan firefighters still hosing down flames; Fire Department, Police Urge Extreme Caution”.

In other words, it was a dry summer. And people were being foolish.

“Three Lake Cowichan youth admitted to starting a fire behind the old Stanley Gordon School on Thursday. The Lake Cowichan Fire Department and RCMP were called out and the youths were located. The fire had been stomped out prior to the emergency crews arriving.

“’Needless to say this incident could have had very serious consequences considering the recent hot, dry weather and wind conditions,’ said Cst. Grant Desmet. ‘The youth who started the fire was very apologetic and was picked up by her parent.’

“No charges are being considered, said the police.

“Two days earlier, a discarded cigarette is believed to be the cause of a grass fire at the old J.H. Boyd ball field.

The Lake Cowichan Fire Department was first called to the scene at 3:15 p.m. on Aug. 25 and spent about an hour spraying water and foam on the long dry grass and along the tree line. About an hour later a second call went out when it appeared flames had flared up again.

“The Lake Cowichan RCMP are asking for information about this fire.

“’Due to the current fire hazard in B.C., police are urgently requesting members of the public to use extreme caution when disposing of cigarettes and other incendiary sources,’ notes an RCMP news release.

“There is currently a fire ban in the Cowichan Lake area.

“The field, which for years was used for slo-pitch baseball games when it was owned by the school district, is now privately owned and the grass has been left to grow. Over the years people, many out walking their dogs, have cut across the field.

25 years ago:

On Aug. 31, 1994, readers of The Lake News saw “Beer, drugs as revellers invade Wentworth Road? No word from police”.

What did it all mean?

“Kids have been ‘drinking, trashing, playing loud music from car radios’ and involved in vandalism on the E&N right of way near Wentworth Road, residents Vic and Pat Heiskala have reported to the Cowichan Valley Regional District board.

“Though complaints were made to police, ‘we haven’t heard anything,’ Pat Heiskala told The Lake News.

“The parties continue every night, she said.

“‘I am concerned that there may be drug-related activities due to the number of vehicles using the area and the observance of pills on the ground near a trash pile of beer cans,’ she said in her letter.

“She complained that

  • a chained barrier was removed from her neighbour’s property
  • a vehicle or vehicles parked on private property and ‘they trashed the area.”

40 years ago:

In The Lake News of Aug. 29, 1979, we read that “BC forests feared reaching ‘silent emergency’ status”.

Hmm. That was 40 years ago, eh? What would they think now? Let’s see what they were saying:

“George Warrach, the forester in charged of the Lake Cowichan Research Station until 1978 when he retired, told fellow foresters and others Friday that that there is an ever-growing, public awareness of the silent emergency in the forests.’

“Warrack, who was in charge of the research division from 1971-78, was one of several historians who spoke at the 50th anniversary of the research station. Among others there were senior officials of the ministry of forests, Forests Minister Tom Waterland, present employees of the station and pioneer foresters such as Warrack.

“The ‘oldtimers’ who addressed their former colleagues and invited guestsall had at one time or another worked at the research station, some of them for many years.

“During a sunlit outdoor ceremony, they reminisced and recalled with humour and some serious commentary their time at the research station.”

After saying that a lot of research at the station was involved in pioneering silviculture techniques which benefitted the entire province.

“Warrack cautioned however that failure to take action has placed the province’s forests into what he described as a silent emergency.

“‘No country has ever practised intensive forest management until it has felt the pinch of a commercial timber shortage. And we are starting to feel the pinch,” he said.

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