Ana De Fields shows off part of the collection of cigarette butts she gathered leaving the Cobble Hill dog park. (Submitted)

Discarded cigarette butts in Cobble Hill raise fire fears

It was one of the hottest days the Cowichan Valley has seen this summer.

It was one of the hottest days the Cowichan Valley has seen this summer. Shawnigan Lake’s Ana De Fields, 19, had taken her one-year-old pup Hudson to the Cobble Hill dog park for their weekly runaround. Situated at the base of Cobble Hill Mountain, the dog park is relatively shady and it offered the pair some relief from the heat.

All played out, they were headed back out of the enclosure when De Fields spotted something she’s hadn’t seen in the area before: a cigarette butt right in front of the entry gate. The easy joke would be to ask who lets their dog smoke? But it’s no joke at all, given the fire danger rating is already high, with the real summer heat yet to come.

De Fields had parked in the first spot after the designated spots for people with disabilities. Over the walk to her car — which was a few metres at best — she picked up nine more cigarette butts.

“I remember when B.C. had all of the fires two years ago and my older brother Chandler was called into the Interior as a volunteer firefighter,” she said. “For me, that was scary and I worried about him a lot. Ever since then, I get nervous about fires in the region, especially because our woodlands here are so beautiful and vital, I hate seeing them be destroyed by humans being irresponsible.”

Information officer Nicole Gagnon said in the Coastal Fire Centre in particular, fire activity remains low heading toward the end of July.

“It is no reason for the public to become complacent and we ask that everyone take all precautions to prevent human-caused wildfire,” Gagnon said.

BC Wildfire Service statistics show 101 fires within the Coastal Fire Centre to date, with 65 of those being human caused. Last year by this time there’d been 106 fires with 77 of those caused by humans.

Both years have been above the 10-year average of 95 fires by this point in the year (with 70 being caused by humans).

De Fields understands that lightning causes many fires. She also knows there’s nothing she can do about them.

She can speak up about the human caused ones, though. And so she does.

“I’m not one to make a fuss about people smoking, because your life is yours and you can do whatever you want,” she said. “But don’t be careless or irresponsible. People, animals, and the environment shouldn’t have potential to be harmed by your habits. There are lots of options for safely disposing of cigarette butts (pocket ashtray, car ashtray, water bottles with water in them, etc.).”

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