Fire crews frustrated as more human-caused blazes torch B.C.
Numerous human-caused fires over the long weekend - including one near Harrison Lake, another in Surrey, and a blaze along the Sea-to-Sky Highway - have left fire officials across the province frustrated.
The wildfire burning north of Harrison Hot Springs is demanding more fire crews – and forced campers to leave the area during the long weekend.
Officials say the blaze was discovered early Sunday afternoon burning about 20 kilometres north of Harrison Lake in an area thick with brush and logging debris. It is estimated to be around 45 hectares large and growing.
The fire isn't threatening any homes or structures, but it is in a recreational area. RCMP have blocked off the road and asked campers to leave several nearby campgrounds.
Locals in the area called the fire “really scary,” noting that more than 200 cars had to evacuate the area.
“An awful lot of people had to go home because of somebody’s carelessness,” said resident Desiree Wolf. “It's a bit shocking how it's been a fire restricted season this year. You would have thought that people would have had a better handle on things, and would have been more careful in the forest.”
Officials say 70 firefighting personnel have been called in, and both helicopters and air tankers have been used in the attack. The Martin Mars bomber is also at the scene, but so far none of the fire has been contained.
The Mayor of Harrison Hot Springs, Leo Facio, said the evacuated areas are very popular for camping. Fire risk conditions in the area are currently at extreme.
“It is unfortunate people aren’t adhering to the warnings,” said Facio. “We have no open fires, and we’re telling people to carry a tin with them and put your cigarettes in there instead of flicking it out the window.”
This isn’t the only blaze fire crews have been battling over the long weekend. BC Wildfire Service said there are currently 139 fires in the province, 11 of which began on Sunday.
Provincial Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek said that more than 30 per cent of the fires this summer have been caused by humans.
"We've certainly seen a bit of an uptake in terms of human-caused fires in the last few days,” said Skrepnek. “Of course, we've had some hot, dry temperatures, and it has been the B.C. Day long weekend as well, so there have been a lot of people in the backcountry."
Another concerning fire began in the heart of Surrey on Sunday, when three to five hectares of grass near Newton Athletic Park were torched.
Neighbours reported seeing thick, black smoke billowing from the field. Dozens of cigarette butts were found nearby, and officials say the fire was likely caused by humans.
West Vancouver crews also battled a grass fire along the Sea-to-Sky Highway near Horseshoe Bay Sunday evening.
The blaze had spread more than 60 metres along the road by the time crews arrived, leaving fire officials far from impressed.
“We did find multiple cigarettes in this area, and again as we’ve seen in the month of June, its human caused,” says assistant chief Jeff Bush, West Vancouver Fire Rescue.
“Please stop throwing your smoking materials out the windows of cars,” he adds. “Properly discard your cigarettes, please. We are fearful of the dry weather and the drought conditions – this is not what we want to be using our water on!”
More than $169 million has been spent fighting wildfires in B.C. this season.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber and Nafeesa Karim