While forest fires have been raging across British Columbia this summer, the Cowichan Lake area has been lucky enough to avoid any serious incidents. However, on July 11, a residential fire erupted within Lake Cowichan, which Sgt. Wes Olsen of the Lake Cowichan RCMP said could have spread to a nearby forest had local firefighters not acted as quickly as they did.
The fire broke out at approximately 3:50 a.m. on July 11.The fire started in the backyard of a residence on MacDonald Road that borders a creek. The fire spread quickly, damaging the backs of three houses and engulfing a vehicle, a trailer and a shed.
Though the total cost of the damage is still unknown, Corporal Rory Goncalves of the Lake Cowichan RCMP said that financial damage exceeds $100,000.
Police evacuated nearby residents in the area then set up perimeters while the Lake Cowichan Fire Department contained and put out the fire. No injuries were reported.
The area behind the houses is covered in thick trees and brush, posing a serious risk considering the extreme fire hazard levels in the region. Thankfully, the fire did not spread any further, and Goncalves is crediting local firefighters and their quick response for preventing a potential catastrophe.
“With the current draught and these houses going up in flames so close to the bush, had they not contained it as quickly as they did we could have had a major incident on our hands,” he said.
The fire started near the back fence of one of the residences, and while the cause is still unclear, local RCMP are working with an arson investigator and are working to identify the cause.
In a press release, Olsen iterated the need for emergency preparedness and the importance of having an evacuation plan. He said that he would also like to remind residents of some common safety practices during this period of an extreme fire hazard rating, such as not carelessly disposing of cigarettes, which is the number one cause of forest fires. He also reminded residents to safely store paints, chemicals and fuel and to be careful to properly dispose of petroleum-soiled rags as they can spontaneously combust and cause a fire. Due to the current fire ban, no burning of any kind is allowed.
Any residents with information about the recent incident, including what may have caused it, are asked to contact the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment at 250-749-6668.