A brush fire in the Maplewood Conservation Area Thursday capped a busy week for North Vancouver firefighters, who dealt with a series of blazes caused by everything from faulty fireplaces to remote-control cars.
District crews rushed to the sanctuary on Dollarton Highway Thursday morning after staff at an onsite office smelled smoke coming in through a ventilation system. Firefighters made their way into the woodland area to find a 500-square-foot patch of underbrush in flames.
After setting up a hose close to a third of a kilometre long to bring water in from the road, they doused the blaze, getting it under control in about 45 minutes, before specialized teams from Metro Vancouver and the province joined up to help ensure it was completely extinguished.
It was the second brush fire the department had dealt with in a week, and the predictable result of the long stretch of unseasonably dry weather that came to an end late Thursday, said assistant fire chief Mike Cairns.
The same week also saw several structural fires, he noted, all of which were discovered and put out before they caused serious damage or injury.
On Oct. 3, residents of a low-rise at 17th Street and Chesterfield Avenue called 9-1-1 when their building started to fill with smoke. Fire crews evacuated the complex and eventually tracked the problem to the kitchen of a first-floor suite, where an unattended cooking pot had caught fire. The flames were contained to a single room, but much of the complex suffered smoke damage. Two elderly residents of another suite were treated for mild smoke inhalation.
Three days later, firefighters were called to the 4100-block of Capilano Road when residents discovered a fire in their garage. The blaze was once again quickly contained, but this time the cause turned out to be a set of remote-control cars. Investigators speculated the toys’ chargers had overloaded a circuit and ignited.
A little less than a day after that incident, residents of a home in the 1700-block of Riverside Drive had a close call when they woke in the middle of the night to find smoke in the living room. The owners and two guests escaped before the building filled with toxic fumes.
Firefighters tracked the source to a wall next to the fireplace. Heat and possibly embers had apparently made their way through a flaw in the brickwork into to the surrounding wood, setting it alight. Crews tore apart the wall and extinguished the fire.
The incident could have been much worse had it not been caught when it was, said Cairns.
“These fires can quite often smoulder because there is a lack of air in there,” he said. “But then they’ll break out, they have oxygen and you’ll have quite an involved fire.”
Taken together, the week’s events point to some simple precautions homeowners can take to protect themselves, said Cairns. Smoke detectors should be kept near kitchens and in good working order, the owners of older homes should have their fireplaces and wiring inspected from time to time by a professional, and residents should be careful not to plug too many devices into a single circuit, he said.