Channel your inner firefighter, urges coastal wildfire official

Dec 19 2017, 9:49 pm

A wildfire official is asking campers to be careful in extra dry conditions, after almost double the normal number of fires were sparked on the coast around Vancouver this year.

Donna MacPherson, with the Coastal Fire Centre, says 21 wildfires have raged on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland already this year, compared to the usual 12 – all human caused.

MacPherson told Vancity Buzz all the fires were preventable and the main problem seemed to be that campers didn’t know how to put out campfires properly.

“It’s been dry and warm and windy. Unfortunately, people are not being careful to realize the risk when coastal weather is dry,” said MacPherson.

“The biggest changeable event on a fire is the weather. If it gets hotter, drier or windier, that little fire will roar.”

The Lizard Lake wildfire on Vancouver Island last year was believed to be human caused (

The Lizard Lake wildfire on Vancouver Island last year was believed to be human caused (

MacPherson said she understands the allure of the backcountry, but campers need to respect that they’re in a different environment.

“Most of what you enjoy – the sound of the wind through branches, the dappled sunlight, the feeling of freedom – is based on flammable things. Respect that. Don’t add anything or do anything that could cause that to be harmed.”

In that spirit, MacPherson is asking campers and hikers to “channel their inner firefighter” and offered this advice:

How to prevent a wildfire

  • If you smoke, take a water bottle for your butts.
  • If you ATV, don’t drive that hot manifold over grasses and shrubs. You’re not on pavement – but you can drive on dirt.
  • Check in advance to see if it’s so hot and dry that campfires have been banned. If so, don’t have one.
  • If you can have a campfire, enjoy the heck out of it. Then put it out. Really out. (See instructions below)
  • If you can’t have a campfire, up your wood-craft skills and come up with alternatives to get that feeling of camaraderie. Consider lanterns or portable campfires.
  • Figure out how to be the firefighting champion in your group. Be the one that sticks up for the forest, and guide your less woods-wise friends to understanding.

How to put out a campfire

  • Dumping a half a can of pop on the fire as you leave is not enough.
  • Plan a water supply like firefighters do. Take water with you when you go, or collect it in a bucket from nearby lakes, rivers, and streams.
  • Use that water wisely… it took some effort to get it to your fire, so make it count.
  • Pour some water, stir the fire, pour some more, stir some more.
  • Feel the fire pit for heat and keep going with the water until it’s cold.
DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

+ News