Communications equipment atop Mount Newton would be at risk should a fire break out in John Dean Park.

Communications equipment atop Mount Newton would be at risk should a fire break out in John Dean Park.

Fire risk worries North Saanich residents in Dean Park Estates

“All it takes is one idiot to throw a cigarette butt into the woods.”

  • Aug. 2, 2017 12:00 p.m.

Tim Collins/News staff

As a smokey haze obscures the sky and casts a otherworldly orange tinge across the sky, some residents of Dean Park Estates have expressed concern about the potential of a wildfire taking hold in the 174 acres of the adjacent John Dean Provincial Park.

“It’s really a bad situation right now. The storms this winter knocked down a lot of trees and branches and all that debris is now sitting on the ground, drying out. All it’s going to take is one spark, and the whole thing could go up,” said Dean Park Estates resident Pam McCorquodale.

The concern of a wildfire in the park is especially concerning for the residents of the approximately 780 homes in Dean Park Estates.

“I live right on the edge of the park and I’m really scared that, if a fire breaks out, my home is going to go. It’s like living next to a ticking time bomb and I wish there was something being done to remove and dispose of the fire fuel on the ground throughout the park,” said Virgina Rouslin another Dean Park Estate resident.

“I’ve seen down in Oregon where they have done that to prevent wild fires and I don’t understand why we don’t do it here.”

The access road to the park was closed last week due to the extreme fire risk, but the trails throughout the park remain open. And although no fires are permitted within park boundaries and no smoking is allowed, area residents have reported that cigarette butts can regularly be seen, discarded along the trails.

“All it takes is one idiot to throw a cigarette butt into the woods and we’d have a fire, so it’s really everyone’s responsibility to use extreme caution when using the park,” said John Trelford, North Saanich Fire Chief.

He advocates that area residents also take reasonable precautions to safeguard their surrounding property. According to government websites, those actions include removing combustible materials, including dead plants, leaves, weeds, patio furniture, firewood, and other decorative items from within ten metres of your home. Gates should be secured in an open position and propane tanks should be moved away from the house.

Another issue raised by some community residents involves the fact that Mount Newton, within the park’s boundaries, is home to a significant amount of communications equipment that, in part, is used to control air and marine traffic throughout the region. A fire in the park could destroy that equipment and disrupt that communication and control.

Should a fire break out, it would fall under the auspices of the B.C. Wildfire Service as the North Saanich Fire Department is not equipped to deal with a forest fire. According to Trelford, his department would respond to the area to help safeguard the homes adjacent to the park.