Firefighters putting out hotspots at suspected human-caused wildfire near Sayward

Early start to wildfire season worrisome for North Island residents

Photos posted to Facebook by Sayward resident Ann Vansnick on May 10 show flames rising from a hillside in the darkness.

Firefighters were still putting out hotspots on Monday after a suspected human-caused wildfire flared up near Sayward late last week.

“We fully expect it to be under control today,” Dorthe Jakobsen, a fire information officer at the Coastal Wildfire Centre, said Monday. She said that 30 firefighters were on the scene, patrolling and mopping up the last of the fire.

A high-pressure ridge created hot, dry conditions last week, giving way to windy conditions that stoked the fire.

“When that ridge breaks down, it often brings winds with it,” Jakobsen said. “That’s what we were seeing over the weekend there.”

The fire is believed to be human-caused, but no further details had been released by Monday. The cause is under investigation, Jakobsen said.

The fire was out-of-control and grew from roughly 5-7 hectares on Friday to 21 hectares by Sunday, according to the BC Wildfire Centre. Firefighters were able to hold the fire at that size, Jakobsen said.

Heavy machinery and four helicopters were deployed after the Sayward Fire Department and the BC Wildfire Service were called to the fire on Friday morning.

The fire started burning in some slash in an area adjacent to Frenchman Road in Sayward, 76 kilometres northwest of Campbell River.

The Sayward Fire Department was engaged in battling the fire with the Coastal Fire Centre providing assistance.

The Village of Sayward reported in a Facebook post on Sunday that ground crews were working on hot spots, and it expected the fire to be fully contained later that day. It added that a helicopter was on standby.

The post also noted that one property in the vicinity of the fire was under an evacuation order.

READ MORE: Sayward wildfire triples in size overnight, but officially ‘being held’

READ MORE: Crews gaining control of Sayward fire

Ann Vansnick, who lives in the area with her husband, said the fire was visible from her home on Friday night as the winds picked up. Photos posted to Facebook by Vansnick show flames rising from a hillside in the darkness.

“It was pretty scary looking over across the valley to see it all bright orange and the side hill lit up,” she said.

By Saturday, very little smoke was visible from her home, which overlooks the valley.

“You almost didn’t know there was a fire there,” she said. “You could see where it burned but there was hardly any smoke.”

She noted that conditions were windy during the weekend, and said “I’m really amazed that they got it under control.”

For residents, the early start to the wildfire season is worrisome following dozens of North Island fires caused by lightning storms last August.

“I’m concerned because everything is so bone dry,” Vansnick said. “I think we should be on fire ban now… we do live in a forest.”

Area resident Shannon Briggs said her family is preparing for wildfires by trimming and removing branches and other debris from their property.

Briggs, who lives with her husband and young daughter, with another baby on the way, said her household has its own fire pump and hose, and the family is also planning to install a metal roof.

“We just moved back here in July and watched the lightning storm that sparked the North Island fires,” Briggs said in a Facebook message to the Mirror. “It was only the path of the lightning storm that spared us so we started prepping as best we can.”

Briggs added that Shaun Koopman, protective services coordinator for the Strathcona Regional District, was recently in Sayward making a FireSmart presentation.

“I bet the community will take wildfires much more seriously after this experience,” she said.

-With files from Mike Davies and Alistair Taylor

 

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