Firefighters battle suspicious stump fires

Nanaimo Fire Rescue is investigating suspicious stump fires.

Nanaimo firefighters douse a suspicious stump fire at Harmac property Wednesday.

Nanaimo firefighters douse a suspicious stump fire at Harmac property Wednesday.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue and Nanaimo RCMP are investigating suspicious stump fires.

Three large stump and slash piles were ignited in a cleared area of Harmac Pacific land in Cedar, south of Nanaimo, Wednesday.

Harmac fire crews called for additional equipment and manpower shortly before 1 p.m. when afternoon winds raised concerns the fires could spread to nearby homes.

Water to fight the blazes had to be trucked into the site and the fires tied up several trucks and fire crews for several hours.

Dave Leigh, Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator, said the stump piles were there for seven to 10 years. City firefighters attended a blaze started in a fourth stump pile there earlier this month.

“There was one a couple weeks ago and yesterday there was three separate piles set again,” Leigh said. “It’s a suspicious fire.”

Investigators found ATV and motorcycle tracks near the stumps in early June, but were unable to find vehicle tracks Wednesday.

All the piles were located next to an access road.

Leigh said fortunately there was still enough moisture in the ground and vegetation to keep the fires from spreading.

“These fires were deliberately set. The potential for them to spread and cause secondary damage to nearby areas was extremely high,”said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

Fires were set in the bush and in wood debris piles in south Nanaimo each summer for the past few years and in some areas, posed a potential threat to homes bordering wooded areas.

“Every summer we seem to have problems in that area in the last couple of years,” Leigh said.

Leigh was not able to determine how the stump fires were started and has no evidence to suggest fires from previous summers are connected to Wednesday’s blazes.

“There’s somebody out who has decided to start setting these piles on fire,” Leigh.

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