Flames built of piles of clean pallets are far removed from the decades-old community dump pile, but the popularity of the community bonfire becomes more entrenched in Oak Bay each Halloween.
The Kiwanis club and fire department tradition of a community bonfire adjacent to the fire hall at 1703 Monterey Ave. started in 1949, organized by the first fire chief, Ed Clayards.
“He was also a Kiwanis member so it was created as a community event,” said Capt. Rob Kivell, of Oak Bay Fire’s fire prevention division.
Back in the day the community used to pile on their yard trash and other garbage, but these days they stick to a more environmentally sound pile of clean wood from VI Pallet Recovery.
For more than six decades, Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay has provided the hot dogs – in the range of 800 these days – and drinks along with prizes for costume parades. Modern parades include pets.
“The Kiwanis always provides for a band too,” said Deputy Chief Tom Pearse.
“The fire department sets up the stage and lighting and cordons off the areas … it can be pretty busy.”
Around 6 p.m. firefighters set the blaze and by 6:30 kids and pets are showing their costumes. Oak Bay Fire keeps a few nozzles on the flames and ensures the youngsters have a hand keeping the bonfire under control.
“(The hoses) are there to control the fire but we’ll let kids splash the fire. We get quite a lineup,” Kivell said, adding they get a lot of kids dressed as firefighters.
“It’s a really good community event. It’s become tradition. People look forward to it every year.
“We anticipate this to be one of our largest being on a Saturday.”