Smoke in Cowichan, but not much fire

Smoke in Cowichan, but not much fire

Despite small blazes, haze coming from Nanaimo Lakes region

A smokey, smelly haze blanketed the Cowichan Valley over the B.C. Day long weekend leaving many to wonder where in the region the fire was.

The smoke was a byproduct of the Nanaimo Lakes fire, west of the Cedar/Cassidy area but parts of the Cowichan Valley were also burning — albeit briefly.

SEE RELATED: Evacuation order issued due to wildfire near Nanaimo

On the night of Friday, Aug 3, Madelaine McLeod was driving along Riverside Road near Cowichan Station when she happened upon a fire and called it in.

Cowichan Bay Volunteer Fire Rescue chief Colin Gaw said roughly 10 firefighters arrived in a pumper and a tanker to douse what he deemed to be roughly a 30-foot-by-20-foot fire.

“It was just a tiny fire and it wasn’t spreading or anything,” Gaw noted.

The potential was there, however, with a large tree canopy overhead.

“The good thing was it was late at night and there wasn’t any wind and the sun wasn’t blaring,” Gaw said.

North Cowichan South End fire chief Rob MacDowell confirmed that while he wasn’t there, members of his department were also called out to a fire over the long weekend at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit.

“Our guys were out there,” he said. “All I’m aware of is a car caught on fire and spread to some grass.”

While it was a routine brush fire for the firefighters, neighbours were concerned.

Witness Kathy Mercer reported on Facebook’s public Sahtlam Neighbour to Neighbour group that “it was no small grass fire.”

Nearby resident Shannon Hollinshead said “we stopped what we were doing and waited for news. Always have to be ready to move the ponies. Track is too close to our house and the wind was blowing. We always knew the race track would catch fire extremely easily, it was just a matter of when.”

Stephanie Aikenhead agreed the scenerio was frightening.

“Very scary moments to be sure! I am amazed how quickly that fire took off! One of my worst nightmares living meters from the racetrack! I knew that inevitably there would be a crash resulting in a fire,” she said. “This is not about noise, bylaws, whose for the track or who’s against it. It’s a very legitimate saftey concern! Thankfully no one on or off the racetrack was seriously hurt. This time. Had things gone slightly more sideways it could have had a disasterous outcome.”

With evacuation orders issued as a result of the Nanaimo Lakes fires and with another fire burning near Great Central Lake near Port Alberni, CVRD residents are on high alert.

Both fire chiefs, however, said thus far all is well on the Cowichan front.

“It’s been quiet actually,” MacDowell said. “We’ve only had two brush fires. “It’s been good.”

Gaw had a similar report.

“Believe it or not it’s been relatively slow, which has been good,” he noted. “It’s been a good year so far. We’ve been lucky.”