A structure fire on Maple Bay Road has crews from four halls attending. (Google Maps)

UPDATE: Five halls, Forest Service put down fire on Maple Bay Road in Cowichan Valley

Structure fire spread to nearby brush, helicopter ordered

North Cowichan’s entire volunteer fire contingent, as well as crews from the Duncan fire department and B.C. Forest Service worked to contain a “routine structure fire” that was anything but routine just west of the entrance to The Properties in Maple Bay Wednesday evening.

Ten vehicles and about 50 firefighters from the Maple Bay, South End, Crofton, Chemainus and Duncan fire halls tackled a blaze in a two-storey wood-frame house at 1580 Maple Bay Rd. that quickly spread to the adjacent bushes and, thanks to the dry conditions and wind, threatened to spread to a nearby neighbourhood.

The call came in at 5:22 p.m. with North Cowichan’s Maple Bay, South End and Crofton halls all being summoned at once.

Not long thereafter the Chemainus hall was called out, followed by crews and apparatus from BCFS.

“We have four halls, and we brought in Duncan and we had Ladysmith covering our depleted north end,” confirmed Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan manager of fires and bylaw services. “We also had a unit crew from the B.C. Forest Service and their helicopter joined in with a bucketing effort.”

Once the fire took hold, it caused the collapse of both interior and exterior walls of the home, as well as the chimney and more. There was no saving the house but the exposures needed protection.

Because of the wind and the grass, and the house being at the base of a hill, there was a lot of focus on preventing the flames from climbing up the hill.

“If not for the quick response of the crews it could have gone up the hill into Kingsview,” Drakeley admitted.

Within two hours, however, the firefighters had the blaze under control — a tough task given the heat, the exceedingly dry conditions, and a breeze that picked up over the course of the evening.

“The fire was actually under control by 7-7:30,” Drakeley said. “There was a wind blowing down here so we held on to some of the crews until 8-8:30 p.m. and then we started releasing some of those resources to get us back to full stock to cover the rest of the district.”

The house does not appear to have been lived in, according to witnesses, however, one witness said they’d seen three bylaw enforcement vehicles on the property earlier in the day, and speculation on social media was that squatters had been living at the vacant home.

“We can’t comment on that,” Drakeley said. “It’s under investigation and as far as I know it’s a joint effort between the fire investigator and RCMP. Well find out in the near future.”

Police have arrived for traffic control and a firefighting helicopter has also been dispatched to the scene.

The Cowichan Valley is tinder-dry right now, as above-average temperatures plague the region and beyond, following a record-setting heat wave that hit the area in late June. All fires have been banned in the area, including campfires for more than a week, as any flames create a danger.

“We all have a role to play during times of high wildfire risk, and we’re thankful to the nearby residents who called this fire in quickly,” Drakeley said.


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A structure fire on Maple Bay Road has crews from four halls attending. (Google Maps)

A structure fire on Maple Bay Road has crews from five halls attending. (Google Maps)

A structure fire on Maple Bay Road has crews from five halls attending. (Google Maps)