A lakeside campfire left burning overnight May 7-8 has residents around Spider Lake concerned about the risk of wildfire danger accompanying users of the popular provincial park this season.
Dave Stockton was kayaking Spider Lake with a friend Sunday morning, May 8, when they stumbled upon a small but growing blaze that had apparently spread from a campfire started the previous day.
“We had smelled what we thought was a campfire, but didn’t really think anything of it,” said Stockton. “Then we came around a point and saw what we thought was steam. I remember thinking, ‘Why is there steam there?’ Then we realized it was smoke.”
The pair quickly put in on the small peninsula, part of Spider Lake Provincial Park, and found a fire crawling uphill through dry moss into the bush.
By the time I got there the flames were starting to dance,” said Stockton. “It was smouldering through the moss and finally it had found some wood.”
Casting about for something to use to put out the blaze, the kayakers located an empty beer can near the original campfire site, and used it to transport water from the lake to douse the blaze.
“We filled the beer can at least a hundred times,” Stockton said. “It took a lot to get it out.”
The kayakers carved out a small fire break and remained at the site for another 15 minutes to determine the fire was completely out. Stockton then contacted the chair of the Spider Lake Community Association, Paul Christensen, and shared his story.
“People come in through the park, they use the facilities for fishing and recreation,” said Christensen. “Sometimes they’ll go park on an island or an islet, light a fire and leave their mess. We’re aware as a community not to paint all lake users with the same brush, but when a situation like this occurs with fire, at the end of the day they get to go home while we live under the threat of our community turning to ash.”
Christensen said approximately 75 residents live along the lake near the park boundary.
“Our lake is under significant pressure from users, and they need a reminder this is a high-risk area for wildfire,” he said.
Last week, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced an open-fire ban throughout the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, effective beginning noon on May 13. But that will offer no immediate help to neighbours of Spider Lake Provincial Park, as campfires less than a half-metre wide and a half-metre high are still allowed.
Christensen and local fire officials say the main issue is for users to be responsible with their fires, and to make sure they are completely extinguished before departing.
“Too many times people put their fire down and walk away from it,” said Steve Anderosov, chief of the Bow Horn Volunteer Fire Department. “This was particularly horrendous, because he’s got all this water around and a beer can he could have put it out with. It was just by chance another kayaker came along just as the fire was burning through the grass.”