The Cowichan Valley and much of southern Vancouver Island were treated to a rare spectacle on Sunday evening as forked lightning danced across the skies and thunder shook buildings.
It’s believed the lightning sparked at least 30 spot fires in the region covered by the Coastal Fire Service, including one near Lake Cowichan at Meade Creek and one near the Sooke Lake Reservoir.
The CFS’s Dorthe Jakobsen said, as of Tuesday morning, the fire at Meade Creek was considered out of control and covered six hectares.
She said 17 firefighters, two helicopters and two fire-fighting machines on the ground were tackling the blaze.
“That fire is on an incline so there is significant access and safety issues related to rolling debris,” she said. “For those reasons, it will likely take firefighters a little longer to get it under control.”
Jakobsen said the fire at near the Sooke reservoir covered eight hectares as of Tuesday morning and was also considered out of control.
She said fire crews had been assigned to it, but was unable to provide specifics.
Jakobsen said the fire on Mount Healey that covered four hectares as of Tuesday morning, as well as much smaller fires, most under an acre, near Reinhart Lake (Cowichan Lake area), Reinhart Creek (Cowichan Lake area), McGee Creek (Shawnigan Lake) and Holland Lake (Cowichan Lake area), were all considered out of control as of Tuesday morning.
“We have a total of five unit crews, each consisting of 20 firefighters, 20 three-person initial attack crews, two four-man rappel firefighting crews, 17 helicopters and two contract crews assisting to help put out all the approximately 30 fires that are now burning in the area of the Coastal Fire Centre, and we assign them to the fires based on priority,” she said.
“Safety to humans is the first priority, and then location and terrain. We’re trying our best to get to them quick and get them under control. The picture is still evolving and changing, and there may yet be more fires related to the electrical storm as some may be just smouldering and could still escalate. There is rain in the forecast for later in the week and that should help with the fires.”
Environment Canada said approximately 1,600 lightning strikes occurred across southern Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and the western parts of the Lower Mainland during the storm, which began Sunday evening and ended early Monday morning.