Firefighters were gaining control over a brush fire in East Sooke shortly after 5 p.m. on Aug. 8, after the fire led to the voluntary evacuation of several homes.
East Sooke Fire Chief Roger Beck told Black Press Media the fire was about three hectares and crews were “on top of it.”
The blaze, on Mount Matheson Road, was reported at about 3 p.m. Thursday and had seen fire crews from Sooke, East Sooke and Metchosin, as well as B.C. Wildfire, respond. B.C. Ambulance Service and RCMP were also at the scene, though no injuries had been reported.
According to Coastal Fire Centre information officer Natasha Broznitsky, B.C. Wildfire helicopters were initially called in to assist in fighting the blaze, but were called off.
Beck said when he arrived on scene the fire was affecting a few houses, burning into decks and yards. He said crews immediately knocked down the parts of the fire affecting the houses, then flanked the fire and chased it down the hill.
“It’s not the ideal way you want to fight a fire,” he said. “Normally, you want to get below it and chase it up, but the structures, the properties of value were at the head of the fire, so it changed our tactics.”
With the big flames knocked out, he said crews began focusing their efforts on hotspots being whipped up by the wind.
Chief Stephanie Dunlop with the Metchosin Fire Department said communication in the area was difficult, because of the terrain.
“It’s very rocky and hilly there, so communications are very difficult,” Dunlop said.
The fire seemed to have started near a path, Beck said, but no obvious cause had been identified.
“It could just be spontaneous combustion from mosses and grasses,” he said. “We did have rain the other day and wet grass, it can spontaneously ignite.”
Beck said when mosses and grasses get a little wet it gives anaerobic bacteria “what they need to get going and then it lights fires.”
Crews did not carry out an evacuation order, however, Beck said they recommended that residents living closest to the fire leave their homes.
“We’re not giving them the order to evacuate, but common sense is, if the wind whips up again, things could go bad fast, so get what you need and go have dinner in town tonight,” he said.
Resident Doug Pepino said he was home when the firetrucks were first arriving on his road.
“At first when you looked through the trees you couldn’t see the city,” Pepino said. “It was just dense, white smoke.”
He said responders told him and his wife Carol to stand by, and be prepared to evacuate.
“It was a little tense, but as the time went on and folks were really working it, you could see them starting to relax a little bit,” he said.
Another resident who preferred not to be named said the fire was initially directly affecting their home and they started fighting it with their garden hose before leaving. The resident said the fire did not ultimately reach the structures on their property or their neighbour’s property, but anticipated some smoke damage.
Several posts on the Metchosin Facebook site reported that smoke from the fire was noticeable and could be smelled up to Matheson Lake Park Road.