View Royal Fire Rescue contained an aggressive brush fire that scorched a rocky outcrop at Thetis Lake park Tuesday afternoon and threatened to spread into the forest.
The fire burned about half an acre of brush and moss before firefighters smothered the hillside in foam spray. Backed by Colwood Fire Rescue, View Royal threw all the firefighters it could muster to halt the fire’s spread deeper into the park.
View Royal fire Chief Paul Hurst suspects an illegal campfire ignited thick moss, allowing flames to spread and crawl across the hillside. Called in around 3 p.m., the fire was about 1.5 kilometres north from the park entrance on Highland Road.
“It’s a really rugged area. We haven’t had a fire up here before. There’s evidence of camping and partying up in this area,” Hurst said. “This is a reminder that there are no fires permitted in parks … we are sitting at a high to extreme fire danger. This is the grief and devastation caused by an unattended campfire.”
Hundreds of hectares of forest surrounding Thetis Lake is thick with dry brush, leaves and grasses that could feed a potentially devastating forest fire. It’s fortunate Tuesday’s fire didn’t spread beyond the high, rocky bluff, Hurst said.
“It’s going to take weeks of rain to bring this hazard level down. If you look around the forest area now, (the grass) is yellow, we had substantial growth in fuels in spring and summer,” he said. “We are in a situation where we have large amounts of fuel that’s dried out.”
Colwood crews made water runs to a fire hydrant in a Watkiss Way neighbourhood, allowing View Royal firefighters to contain the smoky, smoldering fire within an hour. Highlands Road was closed to traffic for about 40 minutes before vehicles were allowed south to exit the park.
B.C. Forest Service and Capital Regional District fire crews also attended and helped dig out burning moss, a long and labourious process.
At the same time, three bark mulch fires broke out along Island Highway in View Royal, likely from drivers flicking cigarettes in the median during rush hour.
“The most disappointing thing about this is while we were dealing with an unattended or errant campfire, there were (three) other fires in View Royal that Colwood had to respond to,” Hurst said.