At the time of writing there had been three wildfires in the Cowichan Valley, one very close to the Town of Lake Cowichan, in the last month.
Two broke out on the same day last week on Mount Sicker and Stoney Hill.
This is extremely worrying, and does not bode well for fire season here in Cowichan this summer.
Since there has been no lightning in the area, that leaves the fires as human-caused.
Last week we enjoyed record-setting temperatures, and though before that the mercury wasn’t soaring, there was also very little rain. If you’ve gone out into the garden or the woods you will have noticed how dry everything is getting already. In many areas the fire risk has been moved from low to moderate. This means that people must start to be extra careful about their behaviour.
Tossing cigarettes from cars, or while walking along trails or roadsides, is not only littering, but a potential fire hazard.
Campfires are still allowed, however, people must be sure to keep them small, make sure they have water on hand to douse the flames if they look like they’re getting out of control, light them on bare ground where they are not close to anything that can ignite, and when they leave, people must make certain the campfires out not only out, but cold, so there is no risk of a flare-up.
Backyard burning is never allowed within the Town of Lake Cowichan, and the burning window for the Cowichan Valley Regional District is now closed. People may take their yard and garden waste to the transfer station for free, so there’s no excuse to contravene the burning bylaws.
The woods are a beautiful natural amenity of living in the Cowichan Lake area. But they come with dangers, and not just cougars and bears.
Communities in the Cowichan Lake area are in what is known as an urban interface zone for wildfires. In layman’s terms, what this means is that Cowichan Lake residents live close to and sometimes even in forested areas that are susceptible to wildfires, and are thus more at risk from fires.
The Lake Cowichan Fire Department is promoting the FireSmart program, where people look at what they can do on their own properties to reduce the risk of fire, such as clearing flammable materials away from your home.
So far the fires this season have been small and easily extinguished. But it just takes the right (or wrong) combination of conditions for that to change. We all need to take more care. Our communities depend on it.