Tuesday’s wildfire near Smuggler Cove spread quickly and covered about two hectares before fire crews managed to contain it. Some residents had been evacuated from their homes, but they were able to return after about two hours. Disaster had been averted.
The Old Sechelt Mine fire also covered about two hectares on July 2, 2015, when firefighters responded to the report of a grass fire up Mason Road. The difference in wind conditions, access and other factors, however, put the fire beyond their reach and it continued to rage out of control. A week later, it had consumed 300 hectares of forest and resulted in the death of tree faller John Phare. It was a major disaster.
The province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development confirmed to us Wednesday what many people in the community long ago accepted as a given fact: “An investigation by Ministry wildfire origin and cause experts determined the Old Sechelt Mine fire was likely started as a direct result of target shooting.”
Tuesday’s fire was also human caused, Halfmoon Bay Fire Chief Ryan Daley determined after an investigation the next morning, and Sunshine Coast RCMP reported on the day of the fire that it was caused when a “controlled burn got out of control.”
Chief Daley and his counterpart in Roberts Creek, Pat Higgins, both pointed out this week that conditions outdoors are unusually dry and stressed the need for everyone to exercise the utmost caution. Commenting on the fire situation, reader Richard Austin wrote: “My dad who’s almost 92 wouldn’t let us have a fire during this recent burning season. He’d been surveying the forest and was checking the soil on his property [in Roberts Creek]. He said it’s way too dry and an accident waiting to happen if we had our usual spring burn.”
The warning signs are everywhere. We are one spark away from disaster.
It’s wonderful that the province agreed to rename a lake after John Phare and Sunday’s ceremony was a moving tribute to the man. But the most fitting way we can honour his memory is by doing everything we can to prevent a similar tragedy and all the destruction that came with it.