Brush fire threatens habitat at Swan Lake sanctuary

Investigators have yet to determine cause of Saturday afternoon blaze

Kathleen Burton

It still smells like ash following the Saturday afternoon brushfire on the south side of Swan Lake, and investigators have yet to determine the cause of the half-acre blaze.

“They’re not thinking it was maliciously set, but they can pinpoint where it started from,” said Kathleen Burton, executive director of the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. “It started up here, not down at the lake, which leans more to it being something like a tossed cigarette.

“When it’s this dry, it doesn’t take very much.”

According to police, the fire started around 2 p.m. Saturday, causing traffic on Saanich Road to be diverted to Falmouth Road and Greenridge Crescent for nearly five hours.

Burton said the fire spread downhill with the help of the wind, jumping two paths and scorching the earth toward the water.

“Fortunately, some of the stuff that was in here was reed canary grass, which is invasive,” she said. “Unfortunately, because it didn’t burn all that hot, it may actually grow back even heartier. We now have to go through the process of what we can dig and plant to try to remove it and put something else in here.”

Burton said the fire has had a detrimental impact on the wildlife in the area who called that half-acre home.

“It may be better for things like snakes, but for any of the rodents and the birds that were living there, they’ve lost that habitat space.”

Burton credited a passerby for notifying them of the smell of smoke in the area, which allowed the fire department to reach the brushfire quickly and prevent it from spreading further. She’s also asking the public not to discard their cigarette butts or bottles around Swan Lake, for fear of sparking another devastating brushfire.

“When it’s this hot and this dry, people need to take more consideration for if they’ve put their cigarette butts out,” she said. “If you’re throwing your bottles or plastics out the window, they do act as a magnifier when the sun’s hot enough and that can start a fire.”

If anyone is interested in helping the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in the aftermath of the brushfire, they can call 250-479-0211 to volunteer, donate or contribute to their restoration efforts.

 

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