Local fire departments bracing for a long season of grass and mulch fires

The Saanich Fire Department has seen 20 grass fires so far this year, while the Victoria Fire Department has seen 23 mulch fires.

With unseasonably warm temperatures, dry weather and lack of moisture, local fire departments are bracing for a long season of grass and mulch fires.

“With the way things are right now, things are really dry out there. Our hazard rating in Greater Victoria, certainly in Saanich, is at high and that means the surface fuels are very dry. So grass fires are very easy ignited,” said Capt. Richard Pala of the Saanich Fire Department.

The fire department responded to 59 grass fires in 2014. So far this year, they’ve seen 20 grass fires — 14 of which were in May and three already in June.

The main culprit: cigarette butts.

“People go out and have a smoke break and in two hours it’s gone from smouldering to flaming,” said Pala, noting that many of the fires occurred in front of businesses such as gas stations, offices or bus stops.

“This year, we’ve hit that really dry weather earlier. The things that have been drying out over the previous months have really lost their moisture content.”

Broken glass, which can also magnify the rays of the sun, are also cause for concern.

The Victoria Fire Department has also seen a significant increase in the number of mulch fires.

From January to June of this year, crews have responded to 23 mulch fires, almost double the amount they had the previous year.

“With the exceedingly dry conditions, they can start with something as simple as a cigarette butt being carelessly discarded to someone deliberately setting it with a match or a lighter,” said Doug Carey, deputy chief with the Victoria Fire Department.

He noted that it takes a minimum of one fire truck and four firefighters to respond to a mulch or grass fire.

With the warm weather set to continue, Victoria and Saanich fire departments are asking the public to be diligent outside.

The number one way to reduce the risk of grass and mulch fires is to properly discard cigarette butts or make sure they’re completely out before walking away, and properly discarding glass jars or bottles.

For property owners, they suggest keeping lawns cut reasonably low and clearing yards of leaves that may have collected.

“Be aware that we’re in extreme drought conditions in the Greater Victoria area. We’ve just come through the driest May on record and we’re setting up for a very dry June. Please be diligent with your use of parks and recreational areas,” said Carey.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations also issued a Level 3 drought condition, urging residents to reduce their water consumption.

Just Posted

Construction will begin soon on a building in Victoria designed for families and seniors with low to moderate household incomes. (Black Press Media file photo)
New building in Victoria aimed at providing more affordable homes for families, seniors

Four-storey building will provide 58 homes for residents with low to moderate household incomes

Victoria police are looking for the owner of a pink and white bike they recovered in North Park. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police searching for owner of child’s bike

Officers recovered the pink and white bike in North Park

A report on food security in Sooke reveals that nearly 15 per cent of people in Sooke have trouble getting food on the table. (The Canadian Press)
Food security a growing challenge in Sooke

‘This isn’t going to get any better if we don’t do anything about it’

Four residents and two cats were displaced from their home in James Bay when a fire broke out Sunday afternoon. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
No injuries in James Bay house fire

Fire broke out at about 2 p.m. Sunday

A single-vehicle incident impacted the morning commute on the Pat Bay Highway. (Black Press Media file photo)
TRAFFIC: Single-vehicle incident closes section of Pat Bay

Northbound traffic down to one lane, southbound reopened

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Most Read