Over the past two weeks, Port Alberni fire crews have responded to around a dozen fires mostly in Roger Creek and Dry Creek parks.
Mike Owens, chief of Port Alberni Fire Department, says all of the fires have been human caused.
“All of the fires that we’ve attended have been human caused, and all of them have been suspicious in nature,” Owens told CHEK News. “We have had RCMP attending each one of those calls and opening up their own files, so that they can investigate to try to determine if there’s any criminality or if it’s, in fact just carelessness that is the root cause.”
Owens says some online have been speculating that these fires have been caused by encampments, he says there is no evidence to suggest that.
“What I can confirm is that we’re not finding evidence at these fires of a campfire, so it’s not somebody who’s living rough and starting a campfire to keep warm or to cook and then that gets away on them,” Owens said. “There’s no evidence of a campfire in the areas so it certainly looks like it’s either somebody again being careless or somebody being more deliberate and intentional in setting these fires.”
He notes that the fire danger rating in Port Alberni is extreme and has been for weeks and is expected to remain so until the area gets rain.
“We want to ensure that individuals are just being careful out there,” Owens said.
“And one of the reasons that we’ve been successful thus far in keeping these fires relatively small, is just because we’ve had our population here is alive to the fact that the conditions in the forests are still tinder dry, and have been reporting quickly, which has allowed us to arrive on scene quickly and suppress the fire before it has an opportunity to really grow.”
In last night’s fire, Owens said crews were initially called out for reports of smoke and haze in the area around 10 p.m. Crews arrived on scene and worked to find the fire.
“Shortly thereafter, they did find a fairly significant fire burning in Roger Creek Park adjacent to the Scott Kenny trail,” Owens said. “The officer on shift requested through fire dispatch to have that second crew respond. When we got on scene, there was a fire that was approximately 30 feet by 40 feet and was climbing right to the treetops.”
Owens said it took fire crews about an hour and a half to extinguish the flames, then stayed on scene for a short period after that to ensure there were no remaining hot spots.
CHEK News has reached out to Port Alberni RCMP for more information. If a response is received, this story will be updated to include it.