North Cowichan’s fire halls, including Maple Bay, have responded to more fires than usual this spring. (Citizen file)

North Cowichan’s fire halls, including Maple Bay, have responded to more fires than usual this spring. (Citizen file)

Dry weather, wind leads to more brushfires this spring in North Cowichan

‘Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.’

Dry weather has caused more brushfires than usual so far this spring, but North Cowichan manager of fire and bylaw services Martin Drakeley hopes it’s not s sign of things to come.

There is usually more rain at this time of year — and the wet weather is expected to return this weekend — and extra wind has created even drier conditions, setting up a situation that caters to brushfires.

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Between April 5 and 15, crews from North Cowichan’s four halls alone responded to eight brushfires.

“We’re not to the point where we have to do patrols,” Drakeley said. “But hopefully this isn’t telling for the rest of the year.”

The fires this spring have come from a variety of sources, he noted.

“There have been a few backyard burns that have gotten away, and a few bark mulch fires smouldering until the wind kicks up.”

April 15 was the last day for the burning window (the dates each year when municipal residents are allowed to have backyard burns), which should prevent some of the incidents, but that’s not always 100 per cent effective.

“There’s always somebody that ignores the window,” Drakeley acknowledged.

North Cowichan’s forestry department and parks and recreation staff are keeping an eye out, and residents should continue to watch for fires. They should be “situationally aware” of where smoke is coming from and not phone in unless it’s necessary. For example, make sure it’s not just your neighbour’s diesel truck starting up, or haze from a nearby mill.

“We do have a very good watchful eye out in the community,” Drakeley said. “But sometimes they turn out to be false.”

Recreational firepits are also not a cause for alarm, as long as they comply with the Fire Protection Bylaw.

Drakeley has three rules for preventing fires this time of year: “Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.”

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