Nanaimo in extreme fire danger

Fire officials are reminding the public to be careful with cigarette butts and campfires as a result of the recent hot, dry weather.

Fire officials are reminding the public to be careful with cigarette butts and campfires as a result of the recent hot, dry weather.

Campfires are not permitted at any time of the year in the City of Nanaimo and cooking fires are also banned while the city remains in the extreme fire danger rating, said Doug Bell, chief fire investigator with Nanaimo Fire Rescue.

The city has been in extreme, the highest danger rating, for several weeks.

“We haven’t had any rain for quite a while,” he said. “Everything that’s living is drying up. It’s just getting worse and worse.”

Fire crews attended eight grass fires over the weekend, most of which were probably caused by discarded cigarette butts, said Bell.

“They’re all related to the fire rating,” he said.

Firefighters dumped a truckload of water on some hedges that caught on fire along Bowen Road last Friday – again the likely culprit is a cigarette butt – only to turn around and discover another area had burst into flame about three metres away, said Bell.

“We’re so dry, it’s going to take some substantial rain to lower the rating,” he said. “People should be careful 12 months of the year, but this time of year, they should be very very careful. We don’t want to lose buildings. We’ve had houses burn down because of discarded cigarettes.”

Outside the boundaries of the City of Nanaimo, campfires are permitted in regions of the Coastal Fire Centre not governed by municipal bylaws.

Spokeswoman Marg Drysdale said the fire centre had a relatively quiet weekend – crews responded to 20 incidents compared with 95 incidents over the Labour Day long weekend.

She said the entire east coast of the Island from just below Courtenay down to Victoria has a fire danger rating of extreme, except for an area of Duncan that is in high.

“All it needs is a spark,” said Drysdale. “We’re telling the public to be very careful.”

Temperatures are expected to remain above average for this time of year over the next week, she added.