A Saanich public works employee was johnny-on-the-spot in Mount Douglas Park just after 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, recognizing suspicious behaviour that led to the discovery of a small fire.
The Saanich staffer was readying to leave the Douglas Creek salmon restoration work site when he spotted a youth with a gasoline jerry can. He came across a fire on the creek bed where the youth had poured gas on rocks and twigs and ignited it.
As the youth ran away on foot, the employee, who wished to go unnamed, snuffed the fire but also called Saanich emergency services. Saanich Police and Saanich Fire responded, with the latter ensuring there was no further danger to the area.
“The suspect had taken a 20-litre jerry can of fuel from the Saanich municipal truck and was using that to light a fire,” said Sgt. Jereme Leslie. “The incident is now under investigation.”
The Saanich employee described the suspect to Saanich Police as a 13 to 16 year old male, about 5-foot-7 and slender with brown hair, a blue t-shirt, blue jeans and a blue back pack.
Though the fire was small, estimated at about four inches in size by the staffer, it is highly concerning considering the province is in a state of emergency due to the raging wildfires of the interior, Leslie said.
“Obviously it’s very concerning behaviour in the middle of a dry spell, even more so because of the possible implications to that area,” Leslie said.
Darrell Wick, president of the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, said it’s just the latest fire in a rash of surprisingly irresponsible behaviour in the park. Most are done on the dry side of the creek bed, as they offer a remote location and plenty of fuel in terms of fallen branches.
“We have seen other [bonfires] in or near the creek where flying embers could easily start a serious fire,” Wick said. “Some of these fires appear to be in conjunction with evening group parties. They also leave a mess that park employees have to clean up.”
It appears that the partying and bonfires often go hand-in-hand, as garbage and empty alcohol cans and bottles are found near the make shift fire pits.
A few summers ago one of these fires was lit on the forest floor, Wick said. It’s believed the people who started it had put it out, but below the surface were embers that later reignited into a 15-metre-wide fire.
“The hope is that people walking through the park, especially in the evening, can keep their eyes open for suspicious behaviour and call the police right away,” Wick said.
If anyone has any information about the suspect please contact the Saanich Police non-emergency line at 250-475-4321.