Courtenay firefighters encountered a wide area of spreading flames Tuesday morning after responding to a call at 1 a.m. west of the city.
“Our fire dispatch was starting to get multiple calls of a glow in the sky out west of Highway 19,” said Courtenay Fire Inspector Greg Lamb. “I went out to investigate and found it was debris piles on fire at a scrap yard on Duncan Bay Main.”
Cumberland firefighters were called in to assist as well as the Coastal Fire Centre because the blaze is outside of the local fire protection area.
Ultimately the flames were stubborn and deep-rooted in the piles of dirt and wood. Crews were on the scene for about 8 hours and smoke continued to billow from the burning piles into the day.
“It was in the scrapyard, it was in the scrap piles but it did get out of the piles into the standing timber and a couple of the trees were involved so there was the potential to get out of control,” added Lamb.
Courtenay firefighters were also called to a much smaller but potentially dangerous fire in the woods near Veterans Memorial Parkway on Tuesday morning, where over 100 metres of hose was required to get deep into the wooded lot.
The cause of both fires hasn’t been released.
It all comes on a day when the fire danger rating on Vancouver Island reached a rare level rating of “extreme” for the entire Island from Victoria to the normally wetter north and west coast.
“When fire danger ratings get up to extreme, you’re in a situation where very small things can start a fire,” said Gordon Robinson, information assistance at the Coastal Fire Centre in Parksville. “Especially in these conditions, the fine fuels are extremely dry so when a fire does get going it can grow very quickly.”
There have been 165 fires in the Coastal Fire Centre so far this year which is higher than average but the 3450 hectares that have burned are around normal. Officials say that means the fires are being reported early and put out quickly by fire crews.
Rain is forecast for the end of the week but Robinson says the relief will be minimal and urges everyone not to let their guard down.