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Wildfire at popular Lions Bay swimming spot likely human caused

“It’s pretty tinder dry for this early in the season,” the chief said. ““Absolutely no smoking. No ignitions of any sort.”

After dousing a wildfire at a popular swimming destination, Lions Bay Fire Rescue has a stern warning for the public.

Multiple agencies responded to a popular cliff jumping spot just south of the village around 5 p.m. Sunday after a boater on Howe Sound spotted a column of smoke rising from the area and called 911, said Lions Bay fire chief Barrett Germscheid.

The site of the fire was about a 10-minute hike from the Sea to Sky Highway. When the crews arrived carrying pumps, hoses and other gear, the fire was burning through a large area, consuming ground level bushes with flames candling up to the canopy in some trees, Germscheid said.

Germscheid informed the Coastal Fire Centre and West Vancouver’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers were on their way within 20 minutes to bring more pumps and hoses. B.C. Wildfire Service members arrived later with two attack crews and a helicopter.

“We had multiple hose lines and multiple agencies putting water on the fire,” Germscheid said. “It flashed up a couple of times. We thought we had a handle on it. Then the wind would kick up and it would just take off and start moving a little bit quicker.”

At its peak, it was about 4,000 square metres in size, Germscheid said.

As of Monday afternoon, the BC Wildfire Service listed the blaze as “under control,” with some crews remaining to patrol and deal with any hotspots.

RCMSAR Station 1 leader Jason King said he and his volunteers were eager to help.

“Having the ability to come by the water and then assist by pumping ocean water up the mountainside, it was probably instrumental in not losing more terrain or possibly even homes,” he said.

When the fire was officially out, an investigator was brought in to try to determine the exact cause, but Germscheid said it’s not hard to narrow it down.

“There were 60-plus people there and no lightning, so that tells me it’s probably going to be human caused,” he said. “As to whether it was a cigarette butt or anything like that, no idea.”

It’s been an especially dry May and start of June, Germscheid said, and fire risk has gone up accordingly.

“It’s pretty tinder dry for this early in the season.… The conditions now, we wouldn’t usually see till mid- to late-July,” he said. “And this is it. We’re getting earlier and earlier and earlier wildfires.”

As long as wildfire risk remains high, Germscheid said anyone venturing into the woods needs to be hypervigilant.

“Absolutely no smoking. No ignitions of any sort,” he said. “There’s so much dry fuel in the forest right now that any spark is going to set something like this off.”

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