Four fires now burning in Cowichan Valley

Two new fires lit up opposite ends of the Cowichan Valley over the last two days and two different ignition methods were to blame.

Two new fires lit up opposite ends of the Cowichan Valley over the last two days and two different ignition methods were to blame.

Lightning struck a tree at the top end of Meade Creek on Monday.

Fire Information Office Donna MacPherson said it is likely just a single tree on fire.

“It’s in a fairly remote area on a mountain called Mount Holmes, about three kilometers north of Lake Cowichan,” she confirmed.

An initial attack crew (a ground crew of three) and a helicopter are working hard to extinguish it before it spreads. A stubborn fire at just about 90 square meters, it was still active on Thursday morning.

She said the precipitation in the region has done nothing to prevent or combat any of the area’s fires so crews need to be on top of any and all existing and new fires, however small. The weather also threatens to bring more lightning, which firefighters will monitor with keen eyes.

“We’re actually expecting that we’ll get more fires coming out of these lightning strikes,” she said. “We’re thinking more will pop up sort of like popcorn over the next few days as it gets a little bit drier and the fires underground grow a little bit.”

What they had hoped not to have to deal with was more fires caused by humans.

A cigarette butt from a passerby seems to have been the culprit on Wednesday evening at another incident, this one on Kingburne Drive in Cobble Hill.

“We are helping the fire department out. We’ve got an initial attack crew working with them,” MacPherson said.

“The problem is it’s almost on a vertical cliff, it’s on very steep ground so it’s very hard for fire departments to access it.”

That fire measured 1.1 hectares in size as of Thursday morning.

The wind and weather prompted the evacuation of nearby homes Wednesday night.

“After an hour of firefighting (working real hard) a Mountie came up to the house and said it was time to go,” said resident John James, who was more prepared than most.

“I always had in my mind to protect the house with a plan,” James noted. “Sprinklers on poles were set up in quick order with a rotating sprinkler on top of each. Reached all roofs and 30 feet beyond. We were pretty well covered.”

The family watched from a safe distance as three Forest Service helicopters made drops from above using water from a nearby quarry while members of the Cowichan Bay, Maple Bay, and Shawnigan Lake volunteer fire departments and a BC Forest Service crew tackled things from the ground, pumping water up from the river in the rural location.

“I was impressed by everyone, particularly the cohesion between our three local fire departments and the forestry crew,” James said. “Some goof with a cigarette is the suspected cause. Discarding a smoke in the middle of nowhere in a heat wave…..WTF!”

Meanwhile, as of Thursday morning the Skutz Falls fire remains 100 per cent contained. Firefighters are in the mop up stage, which means there are still hot spots in the area.

“The crews move through the area and they’re looking for smoke rising from the ground and they’re feeling all the debris, the logs and whatnot, and if they find anything, they’ll break it apart and wet it down.”

Once crews believe they’ve got it all, a heat scan will be done with an infrared camera to confirm and the operation will be designated as under patrol. MacPherson said that could occur before Friday.

The Copper Canyon (Hill 60) fire remains at 7.5 hectares and is now 90 per cent contained. A crew of 16, a water tender and a piece of heavy equipment are still working that scene.

The BC Wildfire Service relies on citizens to alert them to any column of smoke they witness. Calls can be made on mobile phones to *5555 or by calling 1-800-663-5555 on any phone.