Dozens of campers band together, put out wildfire west of Courtenay

Dozens of campers band together, put out wildfire west of Courtenay

A group of campers enjoying Canada Day on Vancouver Island ended up putting their lives on the line when a wildfire broke out in a campground.

Instead of running, they grabbed every container they could find and started putting the fire out in dramatic footage sent to CHEK News.

Maxine Nickelson was among those who jumped in to help Saturday when a forest fire started next to the Buttle Lake campground west of Courtenay. She cranked the water pump as dozens of other campers grabbed every water container they could find and started filling them.

In the video footage, the campers are seen working as a group, running toward the fire to dump their buckets and, bit by bit, beating the spreading flames back.

“Every time we’d do a trip to the well, my husband would stand in the back of the truck screaming, ‘Bring water to the fire!'” said Nickelson.

“There were so many people, probably two to three dozen people, just bringing everything they could and just being so courageous and running right into there.”

After two hours of racing back and forth and nearly extinguishing the fire, a BC Wildfire Service helicopter arrived to cheers and applause.

“We were all pretty sore,” said Nickelson.

Her husband was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

“His heart rate had skyrocketed, coughing because he had stayed in there the whole time with a few other people so they could direct people where they were going,” said Nickelson.

“They discharged us. They monitored him for five hours.”

Nickelson says she has no doubt that without everyone’s courageous actions, the campground, and maybe more, would have been lost.

The wildfire service says a fire near Buttle Lake was discovered around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s now listed as under control, meaning it won’t spread any further, and the service says it was human caused. 

“It raises awareness for not to play with fire because it was not a cigarette butt, it wasn’t lightning. It was some kids playing with fire where they shouldn’t have been when they shouldn’t have been,” added Nickelson.

“When there’s a fire ban, there’s a reason for it.”

A campfire ban is currently in place on the Island, where the fire danger rating is almost entirely high, with a few small pockets of extreme risk.

“Please be careful out there,” added Gordon Robinson, fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.

“It’s hot, and it’s going to get hotter through this next week. We’re expecting a shift of outflow winds … and that’s going to bring hot, dry conditions,” Robinson said Monday.

“With the amount of drought we’ve had so far this year, that can cause fire to start really quickly.”

READ ALSO: Extreme fire danger rating spreads on Vancouver Island as drought worsens


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