It’s a trend Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner wishes would go away, but given the dry weather this July, he hopes it’s a trend that won’t get worse.
Schreiner said a few times a week, groups of 50 to 75 teens between 13 and 16 years old are gathering in the dry, backwoods of Comox lighting illegal fires.
“It’s generally in the sand pits area around Pritchard Road. They throw pallets to burn thinking the fire won’t expand because it’s in the sand. All it takes is for one spark to hit the dry grass and broom,” he explained.
Schreiner added the teens also bring alcohol and he believes they might be purchasing the pallets from local businesses.
“We really want to get the message out — even to business who might not realize their pallets are fuelling these fires.”
He encourages parents to ask their children what their plans are at night when they leave the house, and be extra diligent when they explain where they might be going.
He added even though the callouts the fire department have received have been for fires left smouldering, he warns the fires can pose significant threats to nearby homes, property and people.
“On Sunday around 6:30 a.m., we got a call to put out a fire which had been burning all night,” he explained. “We get a lot of calls from neighbours and we’re hoping to work closer with the RCMP.”
Some of the fires with up to groups of 70 teens have around 150 pounds of wood burning, with sparks rising 50 feet in the air, added Schreiner.
“They show up with nothing to slow the fire down.”
Schreiner said people caught both lighting the fires or drinking alcohol in public can face fines from the police.
“There’s also a huge liability with these fires, especially if they get out of control. With social networks the way they are these days, it’s not too hard to find out who was there.”