A human-caused wildfire at the summit of a Thetis Lake trail tore through 1,800 square metres of bone-dry grass and broom bush before firefighters could get water onto it Thursday.
A group of hikers phoned 9-1-1 from a cellphone around 4 p.m. reporting smoke coming from the 131-metre summit of Seymour Hill, on the east side of the lake but out of sight of the beach. When View Royal firefighters arrived, the hikers led them up the steep trails to the fire, a 25 minute walk from the parking lot.
“The terrain was the biggest challenge,” said View Royal fire prevention officer Lieut. Rob Marshall. “We were a long way from water by the time we got to the fire.”
Crews on scene dug a fire guard trench around the parameter of the blaze, removing grass, shrubs and trees slow the spread of the flames.
Meanwhile, other firefighters were on a boat pumping water from Thetis lake into a portable holding tank set up at Sunny Side cliffs. From there hoses snaked up forested hillside to the blaze.
“It was a complicated process,” Marshall said. “It took us about 45 minutes to get water on the fire.”
Forest crews from the Capital Regional District later helped get water to the highway-side of the fire by pumping it from a pond. Ministry of Forests wildfire fighters also had a helicopter standing by for aerial dumps, but the firefighters were able to get the blaze under control from the ground.
A total of 25 volunteer and career firefighters responded from View Royal and Colwood, as well as six from CRD parks. They worked sundown at 9:30 p.m. and in the morning the CRD and MoF returned to continue hosing the area, making sure nothing was smoldering in the undergrowth.
While the exact source of the fire still under investigation, Marshall is calling it human caused, given that there’s been no lighting storms lately.
“We may have had a wet spring, but things have definitely dried out up there,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to get a fire going.”