Everything’s in place for the 68th year of the Halloween bonfire at Fireman’s Park.
It’s not technically the 68th annual, since one October, recalled as a particularly dry month, the bonfire was cancelled and inspired frustration throughout the community.
Though in those days, it was as much about clearing clutter from homes as a community event. The bonfire was a communal dump, where things like sinks and wood boats would appear as the blaze whittled down the pile of trash.
The change came in 2002 and addressed both the environmental concern of not knowing what toxins would be released by the fire, as well as providing a blaze firefighters can easily douse, and no need to supervise the blaze well into the next day, says Capt. Rob Kivell, of the Oak Bay Fire Department.
“People still ask if they can add, however this practice is not allowed anymore,” he said.
Now it’s all wood. Ahead of the Oct. 31 event, Oak Bay Parks prepares the site with sand and VI Pallet Recovery delivers a hefty pile of fuel for the fire. The fire also used to be lit, literally using fuel, Kivell said.
“The fire is lit using propane tiger torches,” he said. “Many years ago the department would use diesel fuel mixed with gasoline. This practice stopped when several residences that back onto Fireman’s Park had their windows broken due to the ignition of the fire.”
After 68 years though, the community bonfire is a well-honed community event, put together still by the fire department and a local service group.
“The very first bonfire was started by the original chief, Ed Clayards,” says Capt. Rob Kivell, the Oak Bay Fire Department staffer in charge of organizing the event. Clayards was also a Kiwanian – as is Kivell and many others on the department in a second legacy that lasted generations – and Oak Bay Kiwanis continues to support the community event each year.
Kiwanis hand out children’s costume prizes and serve up gallons of hot chocolate alongside 600 to 800 hot dogs each year.
“It’s such a great event. I think people really get excited about it. Even for us, it’s an event we’re really proud of,” said Kivell who recalls bringing his own (now grown) daughters out for the event. “I run into residents in Oak Bay all the time who remember the bonfire from when they were kids and bought their kids, now bring their grandkids.”
The bonfire is lit at 6 p.m. and the children’s costumes parade starts at 6:30 p.m.. Entertainment starts at 5:30 p.m.