The fire on the Songhees Nation that destroyed three homes near Esquimalt early Wednesday, and Tuesday’s fatal fire in Merville that claimed the life of a woman in her 60s, are a stark reminder of how fast fires can grow.

While deaths are rare, they do happen. There were eight fire deaths in BC in 2018.

The Campbell River Fire hall which dispatches all departments on Vancouver Island north of Nanoose Bay and the Peace Country, was handling four structure fires at once on Tuesday. The fires were in Merville, Oyster River, Denman Island, and Errington.

The fires happened during Fire Prevention Week.

“And this year’s theme is ‘Not every hero wears a cape, plan and practice your escapes’ so make sure you have at least two ways out of your home,” said Campbell River Fire Chief Thomas Doherty.

While the national trend is seeing a decline in structure fires, Campbell River is seeing the opposite. The area has seen an increase in fires of 28 per cent so far this year.

The department has responded to 75 structure fires in 2019 compared to 57 all of last year.

“What we’re really seeing a trend in is kitchen fires,” added Doherty. “A number of the fires this year in the kitchen area have been related to cooking, unattended cooking and those sort of things so we really want to get the message out that if you’re going to be working in the kitchen, don’t leave your cooking unattended.”

A Campbell River man escaped a kitchen-related house fire on Sunday only because he heard crackling upstairs. There was no working smoke detector in the home.

“In 2018 over 30 per cent of people injured in a house fire did not have a working smoke alarm and we also know that of the fatalities, 50 per cent of the people who died did not have a functioning smoke alarm,” said Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness in BC.

More information about Fire Prevention Week in BC can be found here.

Dean Stoltz