The Port Alberni Fire Department has been busier than usual battling small brush fires in the Alberni Valley as the city sizzles under hotter and drier than normal weather conditions.
According to PAFD Chief Mike Owens there have been 13 fires in the past nine days. Most are brush fires caused by either abandoned campfires or unknown but suspicious causes.
“It seems to be far too many as of late,” said Owens. “There are several suspicious fires in Dry Creek Park or the quadrant area (near 4th Avenue and Napier Streets),” said Owens, adding that they and the RCMP are appealing for information about these incidents.
“Your observations, dashcam or other video may assist to identify those responsible before there is a significant loss to fire or serious injury,” said the Port Alberni RCMP in a public statement, asking people to report suspicious activity to the police. “With the current weather and winds it is crucial that we control all potential sources of ignition and be mindful of activities in our area that may result in fires.”
On July 4 six fires were called in. One was in Dry Creek Park behind the Port Alberni Friendship Center; there were two more in Dry Creek Park near Anderson Avenue. Owens said that one fire was in the Dry Creek bed in a pile of logs and the other was just up the hillside.
That same day there was a larger fire in Roger Creek Park that was extinguished by PAFD.
On July 5th there were three fires. One was a vehicle fire on an industrial logging road that started to spread to the trees. PAFD responded under authority of the BC Wildfire Services. A small brushfire on Melrose Street was put out by residents and a third fire was put out in Roger Creek Park.
Between July 6 and 10, four more fires in Dry Creek Park were put out. Two were abandoned campfires, one was in a stump near 8th Avenue, and the third was behind the horseshoe pit and the creek. There was a brushfire in the forest behind the No Frills grocery store and another brushfire between the Barclay Best Western Hotel and the BC Ambulance Services building.
On the 10th of July a shed on Glenside Road caught fire, burning the shed, a fence and a boat.
There was a fire outside of city limits in the Roger Creek Park area that was extinguished under the authority of the BC Wildfire Services. On Sunday, July 11, there was another fire in Roger Creek Park behind the caretakers’ quarters. A fire in the bark mulch of a flower bed at Victoria Quay was quickly extinguished.
On Monday, July 12, a larger fire broke out in Dry Creek Park near Anderson Avenue. Firefighters accessed the area at North Park Drive and Anderson. Owens said this fire was large, making it halfway up the hill. The blaze burned an area of about 80 square feet and was declared out at 11 p.m.
The following morning crews from PAFD were back at Dry Creek, checking for hot spots. They responded to another fire in Dry Creek Park near 9th Avenue that morning. The second fire burned an area 15 feet by 40 feet.
Owens says the City of Port Alberni has stringent fire regulations. They, along with Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations, have implemented the province-wide fire bans in their respective areas.
“People may use UL or CSA approved appliances like barbecues or fire rings – no wood fires are allowed,” said Owens.
Port Alberni RCMP Detachment has received reports of several suspicious fires since June 27th. The locations of these fires, in wooded areas, have the potential for rapid spread with the current dry conditions and typical winds in the area.
“The fire department has attended and successfully suppressed all of these fires and have been advised there may have been suspect(s) observed in the area at the time the fires started or were detected,” stated the RCMP.
Chief Owens says that the fire situation in Kamloops and Lytton has everyone on edge and that the campfire ban won’t likely be lifted until October.
If you see a column of smoke in city limits, Owens says to call 911. If you’re out camping or outside city limits and spot a fire, call *5555 on your cell phone for the BC Wildfire Services.
If you have any information regarding these incidents, contact the Port Alberni RCMP Detachment at the general inquiries line at 250-723-2424.