An early morning bush fire created heavy smoke and slowed Nanaimo Parkway southbound traffic for much of the day Tuesday.
Firefighters were called out at about 6 a.m. to fight the blaze, which had engulfed about a quarter of a hectare when crews arrived.
The fire was located in wooded, rough terrain bordering the Nanaimo Parkway Trail south of the Nanaimo Parkway and Northfield Road intersection
Tim Doyle, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief, said the fire did not ignite any trees in the area, but burned into heavy brush and undergrowth making it difficult to fight and snuff out hot spots.
Eighteen firefighters and three firetrucks, which had to be positioned in the southbound slow lane of the parkway to pump water to the site, remained on scene until late afternoon as water tenders ferried in water to soak down the area.
Alan Millbank, fire prevention officer, said several homeless people were camped in the area and the fire was sparked by a campfire.
This is the second serious fire caused by camping on vacant lots in Nanaimo in less than a week. On Friday a fire caused by cooking at a campsite and driven by strong winds in Harewood burned several hectares of vacant land on Fourth Street and threatened a number of nearby homes before firefighters got the upper hand.
No one was injured in either incident, but the fires tied up significant portions of the city’s firefighting equipment and manpower.
A third bush fire that broke out Monday near the Nanaimo River about two kilometres up Nanaimo River Road from the Island Highway drew a response from Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews, including six firefighters and a helicopter.
“It was a grass fire that started in fire department jurisdiction,” said Donna MacPherson, fire information officer. “They asked for our help so we sent two initial attack crews of three people each.”
MacPherson said the fire was about 0.1 hectare in size and crews had it under control by Monday evening.
She didn’t say what started the fire, but the investigation into what sparked it has been turned over the the RCMP.