With spring weather underway, Oak Bay firefighters have upped their patrols to douse any beach fires they spot.
So far, so good.
But in a matter of weeks Oak Bay firefighters will be bracing for beach fire season, which fires up in May and continues through the hot, dry summer months of July and August.
Youth are sometimes, but not always, to blame for starting fires on Oak Bay’s beaches, in violation of the district’s year-round open-burning ban, which includes beach fires, said Oak Bay Deputy Fire Chief Dave Cockle.
“It’s very difficult to manage and control a fire on the beaches,” he warned. “Once we get a couple weeks of very, very dry weather, there is a good risk to spread up into the foreshore and onto the private property.”
The Oak Bay Fire Department was belatedly contacted in recent weeks by a resident about three beach fires in the King George Terrace area over Christmas. Boards were stripped from a resident’s boat house and thrown on the fire.
“It ends up with people’s private lawn furniture getting thrown into the fire in order to get them started,” Cockle said. “People tend to, after they’ve had a few drinks, wander up through people’s properties and there’s damage done.”
One of the challenges in fighting a beach fire is getting to it quickly with the appropriate equipment. These blazes also take up considerable firefighting resources.
“It takes a truck out of service for a period of time while you’re dealing with a beach fire, and if you have another incident then you’ve got Victoria or Saanich on standby,” Cockle said.
Oak Bay firefighters take a proactive approach to educating the public about the district’s ban.
Fire prevention officer Capt. Ken Gill will speak to Oak Bay High Grade 12 students in May about the risks of setting beach fires, among other safety issues. The class visit coincides with grad party season.
The team of firefighters also conducts patrols, from May to September.
“What we do with our crews from May through September is they’ll go out at about 11 o’clock at night and we’ll drive along the beaches and the shores to make sure there are no fires, and if there are, then we put them out,” Cockle said. “We’ve spotted lots.”
Did you know?
The public is permitted to bring their lidded barbecues to Willows Beach.