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'Forest was ablaze': Fire in Thetis Lake park sparks call for shutdown

“There’s no other rationale for this fire starting,” says View Royal Fire Rescue Capt. Troy Mollin. “There was no lightning, there was nothing.”
Capital Regional District fire crews help put out the hot spots and contain the fire at Barker and Highland roads, near the northern part of Thetis Lake Regional Park, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Some area residents are calling for Thetis Lake Regional Park to be shut down after a brush fire was discovered Monday evening off Highland Road.

Dolores Todd, who lives on Barker Road and whose family owns about 80 hectares next to the park, said she received a text from a neighbour about 10:45 p.m. saying that “the forest was ablaze” and there was concern people might need to leave the area. 

“Everybody’s very scared right now, it’s very dry out here,” Todd said. “I think that really they should consider closing parks when it gets this bad.”

Members of the public are often parked in the area to get access to the park, she said.

Brad Johnson, who lives nearby on Herbate Road, said he and his wife made the initial 911 call. He said the fire started in a spot that is known as something of a hangout.

“That fire went from nothing to everything in 10 minutes,” Johnson said. “Thank God we happened to be driving by. We are incredibly lucky that we didn’t have a serious forest fire on our hands.”

Barker Road, which joins Highland Road, is a dead-end street, so residents can only travel in one direction in the event of an emergency, Todd said.

Her house might have been the closest one to the fire at less than a kilometre away, she said. “Thank goodness the wind was not blowing.”

View Royal Fire Rescue Capt. Troy Mollin said he was the first firefighter on scene and there was “quite a significant fire” when he arrived.

“From the road, it was basically a wall of flame,” he said.

Capital Regional District board chairman Colin Plant said the board relies on staff for information on anything related to park operations.

“At this point, I have not heard of any recommendations to close our parks,” he said.

Mollin said the fire is suspected to have been human-caused.

“There’s no other rationale for this fire starting,” he said. “There was no lightning. There was nothing.”

He said that ongoing dry conditions added to concerns about the fire spreading.

Firefighters with the View Royal, Colwood and Langford fire departments and the B.C. Wildfire Service responded to the blaze.

The fire was initially rated as out of control, but firefighters had it in hand by 12:30 a.m. About one acre, or 0.4 hectares, was burned.

Highland Road was closed in both directions while the fire was being fought.

Crews returned later on Tuesday morning to fully extinguish the fire. View Royal firefighters were there first, pouring more water on the area of the fire and digging up hot spots before Capital Regional District staff took over.

Mollin said he knows of only one other small fire in Thetis Lake park this year. It was human-caused.

Fires in the park tend to be in the area of the park’s ridge and around Seymour Hill where there are trails, he said.

A one-hectare wildfire in Thetis Lake park last August led to a restriction of public access for a day and closure of the main beach and Seymour Hill.

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