Illegal fires in remote spots a problem at Lake Cowichan

It’s just too dry for fires of any kind, Lake Cowichan police are warning both residents and visitors to the Valley.

"We did respond to a fireworks complaint last night," Sgt. Wes Olsen said Thursday.

"I know it’s kind of understandable for Canada Day but we want to remind people that we are in the midst of a coastal fire ban. Fireworks can easily set off a fire."

Open fires and campfires are also forbidden, he said.

"The area is tinder dry. Even the smallest spark could set off a fire at this point. It’s such a danger for any of the communities in the Cowichan Valley. People don’t realize that even if they just flick a cigarette out of a vehicle window, it’s going to cause a fire. It doesn’t take much," he said.

There is another aspect to starting a fire that is perhaps not generally known, he said.

"Even if they don’t purposely want to start it, if people can be found to have carelessly caused a fire, it still can be considered arson and they can be considered criminally and financially responsible for the cost of dealing with that fire," he said.

"That’s something a lot of people don’t realize. If I’m burning rubbish in my yard because I want to get rid of old branches or old grass and that fire got away and ended up damaging or threatening the neighbours or burning something down, even lighting the fire without purposefully meaning to cause a problem, it can still be considered an arson," Olsen said. The warnings about campfires

are being ignored by some boaters.

"Since the fire ban came into effect last weekend, we have had the odd complaint of fires on the beach along Cowichan Lake.

"People think: we’re going to be okay if we just go out by the water and have a fire. But it’s not okay. And it’s generally in remote locations that are only accessible by water. They think the police can’t get out there to them," Olsen said. "Well we do have a boat, for one, and we can find them and, two, even having a fire in a remote location like that makes it harder to react to. Those areas are not easily accessed by the fire department or the crews that need to get in there.

"The bottom line is: please don’t light fires or fireworks," the sergeant said.