The Metchosin fire department had to call in aerial assistance

Mt. Blinkhorn blaze largest of 2014 on West Shore

Metchosin mountaintop fire requires help for volunteer department

A brush fire on Mount Blinkhorn proved bigger than first expected.

Volunteers with the Metchosin fire department began tackling the blaze just after noon on Friday and were quickly faced with a challenging situation.

“We saw the smoke from the fire hall before we were even paged for it,” said Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop. “We knew based on the smoke it wasn’t just a small campfire.”

The department immediately paged for help from neighbouring fire halls and from the B.C. Forestry Service.

The fire was initially estimated at about three hectares, but further investigation revealed its size to be closer to 6.5 hectares, said Dunlop, and on very difficult terrain.

“There’s a long, narrow driveway to get up to the top. We ran out of water, and finally it was such a big fire we weren’t able to get enough water on it. The B.C. forestry crews were a huge benefit to us,” she adds. “They’re the experts on this.”

An evacuation alert for several residential areas was issued, and crews stayed overnight, spot checking the perimeter and hot spots every hour.

Gathering winds saw a brief flare-up in some hot spots the next morning, said Dunlop, but the blaze was officially completely contained by 5 p.m. on Saturday.

“We were very, very fortunate that it was contained to the top of the hill,” she said.

“Nobody was formally evacuated, no lives were lost, no structures were lost, no injuries were reported.”

The Metchosin fire department will continue to monitor the hot spots for roughly a week, depending on weather.

As of Monday, Ministry of Forests firefighters, as well as some Metchosin members remained on site. As well, the path around Mount Blinkhorn was still closed.

Dunlop said the cause of the fire was very likely human. “A cigarette or campfire. But it’s so burnt up there it’s hard to tell.”

The fire rating is back up to extreme, and Dunlop urges anyone who does have a fire to ensure that it’s completely extinguished.

The chief also expressed “many, many thanks to all the volunteers that helped out.”

“We had crews out from all over. Everybody came out, all volunteers … there was probably close to 2,000 hours of volunteer time over four days.”

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com