Police and motorists were praising Lake Cowichan firefighters on Friday for their quick, effective handling of a dangerous vehicle fire at Skutz Falls the previous evening.
"It was a line painting truck working for the Department of Highways on Highway 18 near Skutz Falls," said Lake Cowichan Fire Chief Doug Knott. "They heat thermal plastic with propane on the truck, that melts the plastic and then applies it on the road for the centre line but it started to overheat on them. They pulled it off the road and it actually burst into flames. The truck has a very large propane tank on it and it burst into flames, too. The fire destroyed the whole unit."
Knott got the call about 9:20 p.m. and in a short space of time, the Lake Cowichan fire department emptied as the equipment sped east to deal with the threat, which was intensified by the extreme dry conditions in the forest near the area.
Knott said his fire hall handled the job alone.
"There were no injures. All the people that were in the truck got out. But the propane tank was quite a danger," Knott said.
Motorist Kathryn Swan, who was one of many people stopped on the east side of the fire, praised the fire department for its efforts as she described her view of the scene in an email to the Citizen. With her vehicle stuck in traffic, she was able to talk to the truck driver.
"He pulled [the vehicle] onto the gravel parking space while the crew began stopping traffic because of fears that the truck might explode. One of the company’s regular flag persons stated that all had been proceeding normally when she noticed the truck smoking and called 911," Swan said.
Traffic on the highway was stopped for about an hour but that wasn’t the end of the firefighters’ evening, she said.
"Several hours later as we returned to Duncan we saw that the bottom half of what looked like a one ton truck was still there and steaming while at least three or four fire persons were spraying the surrounding ground and vegetation. Thank goodness for all fire department volunteers who show up to help citizens, particularly the able and willing people who helped put out the potentially dangerous truck fire that evening." Cpl Rory Gonsalves of the Lake Cowichan RCMP agreed with Swan.
"We have to commend the fire department for what they did for this fire and also the one on MacDonald Road [see the Wednesday, July 15 edition of the Citizen], especially the one on MacDonald Road because of all the residences in close proximity and the proximity to the forest area at the rear of those residences. That could have quite quickly become a major incident but they got on top of it quickly," he said.