The Courtenay Fire Department was stretched thin on Wednesday, Sept, 21, with two call-outs within 90 minutes of each other.
At approximately 11:20 a.m. the first call came for a grass fire at a homeless encampment near 4040 Comox Logging Road.
“That was the address given, but the actual fire was about 1,000 feet into the woods,” said Courtenay Fire Chief Kurt MacDonald, adding that in itself created challenges. “Just getting the equipment to the site of the fire, you’re working in uneven terrain; we had to make our own trails to get into the area, because it had moved from the homeless encampment to other areas that were basically 50 feet wide by 100 feet long, with a bunch of dead trees and roots. So just navigating through all those hazards added to the challenge.”
MacDonald said while the investigation as to the cause of the fire is ongoing, he did confirm campsite activities as contributing factors.
“It wasn’t a standard one like we had gone to in the past, where the whole camp has been burned down, but definitely activities associated with a camp - whether it be a campfire, or a cigarette but, we don’t know. We don’t have a definite cause yet. But definitely, activities associated with the camp contributed to the fire for sure.”
MacDonald said there were no injuries to report, and firefighters remained on scene Wednesday afternoon.
“They will be there for a while, because with the location of the fire, we want to make sure it is out, because it is difficult to access and if it were to flare up tonight, we would have problems,” he said. “So we are trying to be very thorough, making sure everything is extinguished at the root level, and some of the dead trees around there.”
A dozen personnel responded to the encampment fire. There were no injuries to report.
A couple of hours later, with crews still battling the Comox Logging Road fire, a second call came out to attend a small grass fire on the pathway off Piercy Avenue at 8th Street.
“That was at 12:49… it sounded like a small fire that a passerby extinguished with a fire extinguisher and our crew just went up to mop it up.”
MacDonald said had there been any more calls come in, he’d have taken advantage of the standing mutual aid offers from neighbouring departments.
“Fortunately we have that mutual aid agreement, so we were in contact with our neighbouring departments, telling them what was going on and just having them at the ready in case something else significant came in… we would have paged out Cumberland, paged out Oyster River, and they would have definitely been there to help us out.”