Small fires trigger warning about smoking materials as hot weather continues

Langford firefighters are asking people to take more care when extinguishing smoking materials after careless smokers caused five small fires over a recent five-day period.

In one case, the department went to put up a sign about prevention at the site of a fire and arrived to find a second fire was underway, said Lance Caven, assistant chief of fire prevention.

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All five fires were outside businesses, including in the area of the West Shore Town Centre and Thrifty Foods Belmont, and all were preventable, Caven said.

He said similar fires have led to serious situations in the past, sometimes spreading via bark mulch — particularly when it’s windy.

“You can end up with multiple bark-mulch fires in a six- to eight-foot-long stretch of garden bed.”

In some cases, significant structure fires have resulted from things like a cigarette being tossed in a planter, he said.

As temperatures have risen over the past week, the fire-danger risk has gone from low to moderate and even high in some parts of the Coastal Fire Centre, which includes Vancouver Island, said fire-information officer Julia Caranci.

“The forests are getting dry and the forests are getting stressed,” Caranci said. “It’s just a fast-changing situation with the weather like this.”

With record-setting high temperatures expected in some areas this weekend, she urged people to be careful, especially with campfires.

“We want people to go out and enjoy themselves but we also want people to be extremely cautious.”

A prohibition on open fires, which are bigger and in a different classification from campfires, went into effect Wednesday throughout the Coastal Fire Centre — except in Haida Gwaii.

The lone wildfire burning on the Island at present is near Kennedy Lake and covers 0.2 hectares. It’s considered under control.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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