An unseasonably sunny September has made a tinderbox of the North Shore’s woodlands, leading firefighters to call for extra caution from the public.
“We’re getting cooler nights now, a bit more dampness coming in, but still the fuel load is very dry, and afternoon temperatures are staying hot, so the conditions are all there,” said District of North Vancouver division fire chief Mike Cairns. “Conditions we usually see in mid-August, we’re seeing mid-September.”
The danger posed by bone-dry ground cover was brought home last week when fire broke out in a forested area just north of Horseshoe Bay. West Vancouver fire crews rushed to the Ansel Place neighbourhood just after 9 p.m. Sept. 16 after B.C. Ferries workers spotted the blaze and called it in. Firefighters arrived to find a patch of woodland about 25 metres by 25 metres in flames — as little as 50 metres from nearby homes.
They put out the fire without much difficulty, but the incident illustrates how hazardous conditions are right now, said Tony Bird, West Vancouver’s assistant fire chief of operations.
“It is a concern, obviously,” he said. “Everything we get like that, we’re very conscientious about it, making sure it’s not going to spread.”
The Ansel Place incident came just a week after crews dealt with a one-hectare brush fire above Lions Bay, which took more than two days to extinguish.
North Vancouver has not seen any incidents on that scale, but firefighters have been called out repeatedly to deal with minor fires in the brush along Mount Seymour Parkway, said Cairns. Those were likely caused by discarded cigarettes, showing how easily the dry vegetation can ignite, he said.
The forest fire danger rating for this area of the province was recently set to high, prompting West Vancouver to issue a reminder to residents that smoking and open fires of any kind are prohibited in all outdoor areas.