UPDATED: All hands needed to fight fire

Every firefighter and fire truck, ministry of forests helicopters, responded to neighbourhood blaze.





Every resource of the Mission fire department was called out to a fast-moving brush fire which could have had catastrophic effects in a rural area along Ferndale Avenue last Friday afternoon.

Fire chief Larry Watkinson said all 14 fire trucks and 80 firefighters with the department were called out to the fire, which was first reported about 3:30 p.m. Friday. At that time, it was about half a hectare in size.

The fire occurred on a steep hill in a heavily wooded area near Ferndale and Draper, in an area of large homes. Residents of six homes were evacuated and their houses were in real danger of being destroyed, Watkinson said. He said he took an unconventional approach and put resources at the head of the blaze, to keep it from reaching the houses.

“There was a significant amount of risk, and it was a difficult choice to make, but it was the right thing to do,” he said.

He noted that a fire moving uphill moves three times faster than on level ground.

While the Mission firefighters were preventing the fire from reaching the homes, the ministry of forests was also involved. Two helicopters dumped buckets of water on the main body of the fire, which was burning in a heavily wooded area. After an hour of that approach from the air, the fire’s intensity had been diminished, and Watkinson said it was under control by about 6:30 p.m. About one hectare of forest was consumed.

However, that was far from the end of the work. Fire crews were at the scene for 24 hours a day all weekend long, to ensure it did not flare up. They frequently had to deal with hot spots. District of Mission forestry crews were called in to assist them and cut down trees whose roots had been destroyed.

“I’m very pleased with the end result,” said Watkinson. “Firefighters dug deep into the grit of their souls to fight this. It was very hot and they were working hard.

“Sometimes the public forgets that many of these people are volunteers who sacrifice their home life to protect the community. It is a lot of sacrifice.”

Watkinson said conditions are tinder dry. While some rain occurred this week, he said it will take a good week of precipitation for the ground to start to retain some moisture.

The fire department was also called to a structure fire on Ashmore Place at 6 a.m. Saturday. Watkinson said the damage was contained to the back of a house.