As firefighters battled a forest fire close to Horseshoe Bay Thursday, one local resident described the firefighting efforts as the hand of God releasing a ball of red over the blaze.
Gleneagles resident Jody Lotzkar was on his roof taking photos of the fire that started Wednesday night and the aircraft fighting it, and said it looked like the aircraft had a fist with an arm attached to it and the hand opened, dropping a ball of red – fire retardant – onto the fire.
“They are unleashing hell on it,” Lotzkar said on Thursday morning.
People first noticed the smoke coming from the Whyte Lake area and started calling 911 around 8 p.m. Wednesday. By Thursday morning, the fire had increased from one hectare to three hectares, but by Friday morning, the fire was 50 per cent contained and had shrunk to two hectares.
Metro Vancouver crews were expected to be bucketing the fire from above for the rest of the day on Friday.
“What they told me this morning is that they are very pleased with the progress they’ve made with the bucketing, and there’s still a few hot spots and few spot fires here and there,” said West Vancouver assistant fire chief Jeff Bush.
There were no buildings at risk but the authorities closed all the trails in the area including the Baden Powell and the Black Mountain Trail.
On Thursday, there were 15 firefighters on the ground as well as helicopters and aerial tankers, said Bush. Metro Vancouver Emergency Response was taking the lead on fighting the blaze.
In the morning, crews were “gaining ground,” according to Bush, but they were worried about the wind picking up in the afternoon. By the afternoon, Bush reported that the crews were managing to push back.
“They’re getting a good handle on it,” he said, adding water would be dropped until dark.
Bush said people should stay away from the area as it’s “very hazardous.”
Firefighters don’t know the exact cause of the blaze yet but Bush said it was most certainly caused by human activity as there had been no lightning.
On Wednesday, the fire risk for the region was elevated from high to extreme.
“Whether it’s a campfire or whether it’s someone walking the trail and tossing a cigarette, that we won’t know for a while,” he said.
There were no people on the scene when crews arrived.
Lotzkar said his neighbour had ash around his property, but added the air quality wasn’t too bad.
“Howe Sound had a residual forest fire cast to it from up-country – this has added to it,” he said.
Bush described the smoke in the air on Thursday morning as “moderate.”
On Thursday morning, the three North Shore fire departments – West Vancouver, North Vancouver City and the District of North Vancouver – banned all barbecues, including briquette and gas-fuelled ones, as well as outdoor ovens and burners in public parks and on beaches.
The extreme fire warning means all smoking and open fires are banned.
The province has also banned campfires and any other outdoor burning in the region.
To report any unsafe fire activities, call 604-543-6700. Anyone seeing smoke or fire should call 911 immediately.