No respite from fire restrictions on the West Shore

Local fire departments are still holding their breath waiting for rain

A wet weekend may offer respite, but fire conditions are still extreme.

Colwood fire chief Kerry Smith said there’s no help on the horizon for the well-documented dryer-than-usual weather that has created conditions ideal for accidental fires on the West Shore.

“In all reality, it’s definitely extreme out there,” Smith said. “We are hoping this weekend we will see some precipitation, but we will need more than a couple of days of rain to bring us out of the dryness that is out there.”

He said the forecasted rain likely won’t be enough to move the needle, let alone signal a lower fire rating, something he said he would love to see so he can “breath a sigh of relief.”

“Virtually every summer we have a period that hits extreme, but it’s usually for a couple of weeks then goes away, and then we get a week later,” Smith said. “This year, it’s been right through May, June, July and August and I don’t know whether this will continue. Reports are it will continue into September and October.”

He said the number of fires in Colwood is actually a little lower than 2014 but added Colwood’s numbers are the exception and not the norm.

Metchosin fire chief Stephanie Dunlop said fires in her rural community this year have doubled from last year — and the summer isn’t even over.

“We need a good solid week of a downpour. (A little rain) just pools up in the ground but it is not enough to change the conditions. I don’t foresee any changes close at hand,” she said.

“The concern we have is if we get a little bit of rain, the public thinks now it’s OK … Then the risk actually goes up.”

She has seen a number of human-caused fires started by anything from discarded cigarette butts to barbecue lighters.

Even the exhaust pipes from a vehicle that goes off road can be hot enough to cause an impromptu fire.

“It is beyond extreme at this point in time. It’s is bad enough that on Metchosin Day (Sept. 13) we are not allowing the lamb barbecue this year,” Dunlop said. “Right now we’re on pins and needles waiting for the next call.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com