Just minutes after cleaning himself up from responding to a spontaneous combustion fire at Slegg Lumbern on Tuesday afternoon, Langford Fire Inspector Chris Aubrey’s phone buzzed, followed quickly by station-wide sirens.
A grass fire had sparked at the corner of Jacklin and Jenkins roads, keeping Langford Fire Rescue busy after an already swamped long weekend.
“It’s been a busy 48 to 72 hours,” Aubrey said.
Last Saturday, 10 firefighters hiked 20 minutes into Goldstream Provincial Park with portable extinguishers and water packs to put out an unattended campfire, a job that saw the department call the Ministry of Forests for aid. With no water immediately nearby, it could have been a very dangerous situation if the winds had picked up, Aubrey said.
On B.C. Day evening Monday, the fire department received calls from residents on Crystalview Drive reporting smoke behind their homes. The calls were soon echoed by residents on Atkins Road as the smoke spread and the fire kept growing.
“From the time we got the call to when we actually got water on it, it had grown from 10 or 15 (feet) by 50 feet to 150 by 500 feet,” said Aubrey, who was with responders.
“It was 10 times the size in a matter of minutes.”
There was evidence in the area that led the department to believe it was another human-caused fire.
“Whether it was intentional or accidental, we don’t know yet,” he said, adding it took more than two dozen firefighters to contain the Crystalview blaze. “That’s the closest we’ve come to houses in a while.”
As for the Tuesday fire next to Belmont secondary, Aubrey said it was “definitely human-caused. There’s no reason for a fire to start in an open field like that.”
In addition to Goldstream and Crystalview, several other smaller calls kept 30 volunteer firefighters going all weekend long, but the start of the work week doesn’t seem to have slowed their pace at all.
Aubrey stressed the need for the public to avoid actions that might cause a fire, given the hot, dry conditions.
“We’re no different here,” he said, referring to the widespread and destructive fires raging in the B.C. Interior. “All it takes is one fire to get away and that’s it.”
The difference between the Island and the Interior is that lightning is much more rare here, he said, which unfortunately means “most of our fires are human-caused.”
Aubrey said that while they’re thankful to the public for quickly reporting smoke and fires, there are still too many lit cigarette butts being carelessly tossed aside without regard for the consequences.
“We’ve got the driest conditions now since 2003. We really need the public to be extra vigilant.”