The first major forest fire of the season forced the Trans-Canada Highway to close for a few hours on Thursday, and kept firefighters busy for several days.
The fire in the Bamberton area, near Bamberton and Trowsse roads, started on the east side of the highway early on Thursday afternoon, and jumped the highway around 3:30 p.m. Just over a hectare was burned on the east side of the highway, and just under a hectare was burned on the west side.
Mill Bay fire chief Ron Beck reported that firefighters from his hall were on the scene from 12:30 p.m. on Thursday to 10 p.m. on Friday, back on Saturday until 2 p.m., and again on Sunday for three hours of cleanup.
“I’ve got some very tired guys right now,” he said on Monday.
About 20 Mill Bay firefighters were joined on the scene by crews from the Malahat, Cowichan Bay and Shawnigan Lake halls, and from the Ministry of Forests’ Coastal Fire Centre.
While Beck appreciated the efforts of all the crews that helped out, he had special praise for the Malahat firefighters and the long hours they put in. The fire was just outside of Malahat’s fire coverage area.
“Malahat went above and beyond,” Beck said. “They stuck by our side for a long time.”
The Coastal Fire Centre also battled the blaze from the air, with about four drops from a tanker and several more from a helicopter that spent several hours on the scene.
“Once it jumped the highway, the ministry called for air support right away,” Beck said.
While it was admittedly scary when the fire breached the highway, Beck acknowledged that the firefighters were lucky with the weather.
“What really saved our bacon was that we didn’t have wind,” he said. “It’s unusual here on the Island not to have wind. If we would have had wind, we might have had to evacuate Mill Bay and further.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.