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Capital region fire officials on high alert after grass fires

Officials are on high alert after a series of brush fires in the capital region resulting from a combination of dry conditions and carelessness.
Grass fire off Maplewood Road
Grass fire off Maplewood Road. Resident Eric McNally waters his lawn in case the fire jumped the road between the park and his house. Bruce Stotesbury photo.

Officials are on high alert after a series of brush fires in the capital region resulting from a combination of dry conditions and carelessness.

A brush fire near the Esquimalt Lagoon in Colwood on Friday was the latest in a series of grass fires that have caused fire-prevention officers concern.

Members of Colwood’s public works staff used fire extinguishers and shovels to knock down the fire on the edge of Royal Roads University property, preventing it from spreading through the forest or up the hill toward the Belmont Park neighbourhood.

Colwood firefighters arrived to fully extinguish the fire.

Fire Chief Kerry Smith applauded the Colwood workers: “If not for the quick response of these city staff members, who did not question the need to act, Colwood Fire and Royal Roads University would have had a much larger and more threatening fire to contend with.”

On Thursday, a seemingly manageable brush fire in Saanich grew rapidly after a gust of wind sent the flames racing down from the summit of Camrose Park toward Maplewood Road, between Camrose Crescent and Cook Street.

Downwind from the blaze, smoke blanketed neighbourhoods. Some residents vacated their homes while others held hoses on their grass and bushes hoping to stave off the approaching flames.

Fire officials suspect human carelessness is to blame in both cases.

At the Camrose Park site, officials found cigarette butts, candles and a lot of broken glass. The discarded cigarettes are thought to have cause of the fire.

“It’s likely someone was up there and had a cigarette and whether they thought it was out or not that would be a very likely ignition source if siting in grass,” said Capt. Richard Pala.

Battalion Chief Derrik Ash said firefighters remained on the scene until Friday morning to ensure the fire didn’t re-ignite.

Ash said firefighters will use a thermal-imaging camera to examine the area and then will continue to monitor the site every few hours over the coming days.

The fire danger rating on the South Island is high.

The City of Victoria also warned Friday that human-caused brush fires can start out small but left unchecked can spread to trees or homes and commercial buildings.

The city offers these tips:

• Properly discard cigarette butts and make sure they’re completely out before walking away.

• Never throw a lit cigarette out the window of a vehicle.

• Properly discard glass jars and bottles.

• Avoid parking your vehicle on dry grass or bark mulch, and avoid driving through long grass.

• Avoid placing your gas or charcoal barbecue on grass or bark mulch.

• Keep bark mulch moist and avoid placing decorative lights or electric devices nearby.

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